Where's Scott Morrison? PM cops heat over holiday mystery
Former fire chief Greg Mullins has declined to criticise Prime Minister Scott Morrison for going on holiday while bushfires burn across the country.
"Look, everybody needs a holiday. I'm not going to comment on what the Prime Minister's doing, and frankly at the moment, the federal government's not doing much in this space anyway. So I don't think it really matters," Mr Mullins, the former commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW, said during a press conference today.
Mr Morrison has taken some time off with his wife and children earlier than usual this year to facilitate his diplomatic trips to India and Japan next month.
It's his first overseas holiday since travelling to Fiji after the federal election in May.
"The Prime Minister is overseas with his family," Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed on Channel 9's Today show this morning.
"He's having a well deserved break, and obviously it's been a very busy year. He'll be back at work shortly, and then he'll be off to India, leading a delegation to advance Australia's interests."
In Mr Morrison's absence, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is acting in the top job until Thursday.
But while many supported the PM's decision to take a break at the end of a long year there has been a backlash against Mr Morrison's decision on social media. The hashtag #WhereTheBloodyHellAreYou is trending on Twitter, along with rumours the Prime Minister and his family are in Hawaii, though his location has not been officially confirmed.
His office told the New Daily the Hawaii claim was wrong but declined the say where he was holidaying.
When the country you lead is on fire you have an obligation to stick around and sort it out. Or at least put the right policies in place before you clock off. But this guy’s just in denial ... on holiday ... in denial. https://t.co/GsYyk8PmyK— David Shoebridge (@ShoebridgeMLC) December 16, 2019
Meanwhile, Mr Mullins and a group of his fellow former fire chiefs have announced plans to hold an emergency summit when the bushfire season is over, expressing frustration at a lack of leadership from Australia's politicians.
"People are becoming very angry and they want to have a say," Mr Mullins told news.com.au.
"They are being told that now is not the time to talk about climate change, but I have dealt with hundreds of people who have suffered losses and I know they want to know why. It's part of the healing process."
At his press conference, Mr Mullins said Australia's fire services were well resourced, but climate change was making the problem impossible to deal with.
"There will always be people thinking that more (resources are) needed. Wondering what could be done. Well frankly, it's too late. We've got what we have. They're very well resourced," he said.
"It's not enough because of climate change. Climate change is driving this problem to a place where you simply can't deal with it.
"So what we need to do is get people together. It should have been a national government doing this, but they're not stepping up to the mark, so we will."
The group plans to hold its emergency summit around March. Mr Morrison will be invited to attend, as will Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Greens leader Richard Di Natale.
The fire chiefs have previously tried and failed to secure a meeting with the Prime Minister. They did meet with Water Resources Minister David Littleproud and Energy Minister Angus Taylor a couple of weeks ago.
"We hope they will come, we hope they'll contribute, we hope they will take away the findings and act on them," said Mr Mullins.
"We should rule a line under the past and move ahead together."
The Prime Minister has previously batted away questions about why he hasn't met with the fire chiefs saying that the government already had advice from "existing fire chiefs doing the existing job".
"These are things that were very well known to the government," he told ABC on November 21.
At a press conference on December 10, Mr Morrison also rejected calls for a national response, saying there was already one in place.
"The highly co-ordinated nature of how our state and territory jurisdictions work together during these bushfires has been an inspiration," he said.
"The chiefs work closely together. They have a direct line to me. They have a direct line to the premiers. And the premiers and I discuss these things regularly."
The former fire chiefs' summit aims to bring together various stakeholders, including farmers, indigenous land owners, fire services, military, the insurance industry, state, territory and federal governments.
Mr Mullins told news.com.au the aim was to come up with a national, multifaceted plan to look at fuel management, firefighting capabilities including aircraft, building standards, how communities are planned, refuges, emergency warnings and how to use military assets in a less ad hoc manner.
They would look at issues such as how farmers manage land, their burning practices and how they can keep stock and equipment safe.
"There's just so much to be done and there's just no leadership coming from Canberra to even think about it," Mr Mullins said.
"Australia has become a much more dangerous place because of climate change.
"There are things we can do to improve community resilience, response capabilities and how we recover from disasters, but the big ticket item is to take real action on climate change."