Morrison doesn’t deserve trial by ire

AS THE majority of Australians finalise their Christmas shopping and begin to wind down for the festive season, our Prime Minister has taken about 144 hours to spend time with his family.

That's not even a week. That is his family holiday, reconnecting with his wife and his children before returning to the helm to run at political warp speed again tomorrow.

There has been lazy and immature commentary about the PM going on leave "while the country burns". There are claims of "secrecy" surrounding his trip because it has not been confirmed where he is, although speculation is he is in Hawaii. The internal media handling could have been better, but there's no convention that states the PM should trumpet where he will unwind with his family.

There was probably a belief internally that if the media knew where he was, they would pap him enjoying a margarita and then comparing that image with photos of sweaty, tired firefighters battling a raging wall of flames.

Catastrophising this issue is bordering on ridiculous. The country has not shut down while Morrison takes a holiday - an acting PM, Michael McCormack, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is still on deck, as is Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud.

At this time of year, the voices many want to hear are cricket commentators or Mariah Carey belting out All I Want for Christmas Is You - everyone else is white noise. The noisiest are those linking Morrison's absence to what they perceive is his apathy toward climate change. Climate science is real. But this issue has become so emotive and vindictive that it polarises the community. Politicians from all sides wear this blame.

Even if Australia shut down every coal mine today, it would have a negligible effect on global warming because our emissions are 1.3 per cent of the global total. And even if we shut down every coal-fired power station today, Australia would still have bushfires next year.

We do have one of the highest per capita emissions of all countries but part of that is because of our country's size. We drive more because our country is big. That does not mean that we do nothing. Innovation will have to drive Australia's economy to a lower-emission future, not putting a handbrake on the industries that hire large numbers of Australians.

It is horrible that some Australians are grappling with bushfires or trying to rebuild after losing everything. These people have their loved ones and the community rallying behind them. The fires have been raging since July, so the question begs, what did the critics want Morrison to do? He's not a firefighter and there will always be a reason for him not to go on leave.

Primarily bushfires are a State Government issue. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is on leave but there's been no outrage about her break - and nor should there be. Fireys in Queensland have their procedures in place and Palaszczuk is never really on leave - the job is all-consuming and she would be getting briefed regularly. Morrison would be too.

NSW is at a different level of danger than Queensland.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian this week was briefed at Rural Fire Service. This week another state of emergency was declared in NSW. That means the crisis is not over. Berejiklian, in her state, is the right politician to take charge.

Morrison will waste no time reaching out to victims when the crisis changes tempo.

Few professionals want politicians in the way as they are in the middle of trying to tame a disaster. Tony Abbott was one month into the job as prime minister in 2013 when he helped with backburning at Bilpin with Davidson Brigade. Critics asked if this was the best use of his time and argued it exposed he and his personal protection to risk. Though the criticism shows that sometimes politicians cannot win.

They are accused of being too hands-on or too hands-off. They are accused of not really understanding the issues facing those at the coalface but when they get their hands dirty receive a tut-tut from the media and twittersphere.

Our Prime Minister is not without faults and he faces serious challenges over the next two years on the economy and drought. But whether you voted for him or not, it makes little sense to have a crack at a bloke for wanting to spend a few days with his wife and kids.

Renee Viellaris is Federal Political Editor