We’ve had continuous bushfires in NSW since October. A huge swathe of land has been consumed by it. Over 600 homes have been destroyed, and three people dead, as well as countless numbers of wildlife. And, in Sydney, a pall of orange smoke hangs over the city. Ashes wash up on shore and birds are dying. The air quality is at levels seen in Delhi and Beijing, and people are struggling to breathe. There’s no signs of the fires abating despite the heroic efforts of the fire crews, and it may get worse as the weather gets warmer and the winds blow – a day forecast for today.
This is a national emergency, but do you think it’s been treated as one? No. The federal government does a bit of glad-handing, but have done little of practical value. The army hasn’t been called in. No handouts have been promised to the people cast out of their homes. The fire services – largely volunteer – go unsupported, to the point that they must crowd fund supplies to sustain the effort.
Why this isn’t front page news is both astounding and appalling. I can understand the government seeking to downplay it. They fear that if they make a formal comment that it will be taken as a tacit admission that climate change is a cause of these fires, which are unprecedented. By downplaying it they hope it will go away as an issue. It’s right out of Morrison’s playbook. Unfortunately, much of the media is compliant with these shenanigans, though I sense some outlets are becoming restless.
The other issue they wish to play down is the NSW government’s complicity in the bushfires. In a time where Berejiklian is tearing down stadiums and building new ones she’s also defunded the RFS and budget cuts have led to a fall in the number of park rangers employed. This in an age of extreme weather events and an unprecedented drought, though they’re not the sole cause of these firestorms.
Volunteer fire services around the country are true Aussie heroes, cliché that that is. Volunteers from interstate have flown or driven in to assist their NSW counterparts. Firies from overseas have flown in to help out, returning the favour from when our firies have helped out there. This is a selfless effort by a community of people who care enough to battle blaze and exhaustion, putting their lives on the line.
Our leaders, in the meantime, fail to provide the funding or the tools to do their work properly, and jump on their jet to fly from Canberra to Sydney (cost: $80,000) to attend plush Christmas parties held by the Murdoch’s. This is while firefighters work day and night, and can’t even get a decent feed out of the government. The priorities are despicable, as are so many of these people.
We live in ruinous times. It’s heartbreaking. This isn’t just a national emergency, it’s a disaster – and summer has only just begun.