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The greatest contrast in our national life is between the bravery and self sacrifice of our firefighters and the political cowardice of our prime minister.
At least seven firefighters have given their lives to protect the lives and homes of others – four from our shores and three from abroad.
Meanwhile Scott Morrison is acting like the Neville Chamberlain of climate change, appeasing not a foreign power, but a faction within his own party.
What Mr Morrison did or did not do in relation to the bushfires has been discussed at length, but there’s been less discussion of why. The answer drives all his actions since.
Why did Mr Morrison repeatedly refuse to meet with former fire chiefs about the dangers of the coming hot, dry Summer?1
Why did his government bury a Climate Risk Action Plan for the 18 months leading up to the fires?2
Why did he fly off to Hawaii in a time of unprecedented national crisis?
Why did he wait so long to call in the Army reserves? To acknowledge? To act?
And why, in this sun-drenched, windswept country, won’t he unleash the cleaner, cheaper renewable energy boon that can help keep us safe from climate disasters?
Because to do so would confirm the devastating impact climate change is having on extreme weather. And that would rattle the cages of the climate-denying faction of his party who toppled his predecessor and put him in power.
That ‘why’ will haunt Scott Morrison and maim his leadership, as it continues to frustrate the urgent clean energy transformation we need to help keep us safe.
Growing up in Tasmania, I had a family member at Port Arthur that terrible day when 35 people were shot to death by a high-powered rifle.
I have passionately disagreed with John Howard on many things, but I will always credit him for staring down opposition within his own party to get the guns and help keep us safe from gun violence.
I feel we know what Scott Morrison would have done in Howard’s place. After waiting for polls, focus groups and check-ins with factional leaders, Mr Morrison would have branded the crisis a ‘mental health issue’, as the Americans do, and left the guns where they were.
Expert modelling indicates we would have suffered 16 American-style gun massacres without the gun law reforms that followed Port Arthur.3
We can and must do better on land management and, as Mr Morrison rightly says, heed the knowledge of First Nations people on how to do so best. That must include not fracking their communities, poisoning the water and polluting our climate further.
But former fire chiefs tell us that land management only partially mitigates the bushfire threat.4 Nor can better land management protect us from the bigger storms, fiercer floods and more prolonged droughts wreaked by out-of-control climate change.
What is needed now is what was sorely missing this bushfire season: leadership.
We saw it this week from Liberal SA Premier Steve Marshall, who says South Australia is “putting the foot to the floor” on renewable energy and accelerating his state’s progress to zero net emissions.5
Mr Morrison should be setting the same kind of example on the world stage. For we have always been a country proudly punching above our weight – whether in winning Olympic medals or having an outsized influence on global affairs. Bob Hakwe led an investment boycott of South Africa to help end Appartheid, as just one example.
But on climate safety, Mr Morrison repeats empty ‘meet and beat’ catch phrases, employs accounting tricks on emissions reductions and publicly belittles a 17-year-old Swedish student.6 Instead of encouraging other nations to do more to keep us safe, he’s providing excuses for them to do less.
On the homefront, millions of people and businesses are doing what they can to use less energy, install solar panels, purchase from renewable sources, switch their investments and more – all waiting for the government to do its bit too. An Australian breakthrough in solar cell technology will soon be responsible for generating half the world’s solar power and for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5% in 5 years time.7
Which leaves one more ‘why’ to answer. Why is Mr Morrison both seeing off the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and watering down the Renewable Energy Target while continuing to pay billions in public money to prop up harmful fossil fuels?
The answer is the same.
If Scott Morrison cannot muster the political courage to face down the anti-renewables forces in his party, then we must forge a more powerful, popular movement for clean energy than this country has ever seen. An unprecedented crisis demands an unprecedented response from us all.
National Director, GetUp
PS – Don’t forget to share this with the people you know. Simply forward this email or click here to share on Facebook.
 “Former fire chiefs ‘tried to warn Scott Morrison’ to bring in more water-bombers ahead of horror bushfire season”, ABC News, 15 November 2019.
 “Government buried climate risk action plan”, Australian Financial Review, 11 January 2020.
 “Strict firearm laws reduce gun deaths: here’s the evidence”, The Guardian, 19 March 2019.
 “Explainer: how effective is bushfire hazard reduction on Australia’s fires?”, The Guardian, 5 January, 2020.
 “South Australia, NSW drive new resolve on climate change”, The Australian, 31 January 2020.
 “Morrison responds to Greta Thunberg by warning children against ‘needless’ climate anxiety”, The Guardian, 25 September 2019.
 “How an Aussie invention could soon cut 5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions”, The Conversation, 16 January 2020.
Our team acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet and work. We wish to pay respect to Elders – past, present and emerging – and acknowledge the important role all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within Australia and the GetUp community.
Authorised by Paul Oosting, GetUp Ltd, Level 14, 338 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000.