Scott Morrison’s total paralysis in the face of the bushfire emergency gave rise to the most convincing excuse for his recent disappearance – he wasn’t doing anything anyway, so why shouldn’t he go?
Part of his problem is that any serious discussion of the problem involves climate change, and even one pull on that thread would risk unravelling the shroud of deception he and the rest of the right are sheltering beneath.
But surely Scotty from Marketing could come up with a campaign that appeared to take action on the bushfires themselves without doing anything about the underlying cause. There’s another factor that hasn’t been mentioned, as far as I can see.
What credibility the government has is tied to its claim that this is the year we will return to surplus for good. The mid-year outlook makes this pretty shaky, projecting a $5 billion surplus this year and $6 billion next year.
The economic impact of the fires is going to be at least as big as that, and the cost of a comprehensive program to respond to them even more. Property damage must be well into the billions (for comparison, the 2011 floods in Queensland were estimated to cost $10 billion), and the loss of business, particularly in tourism, much more than that.
Think of what would be needed for a basic program responding to the new normal (that is, normal, until things get even worse in the future). That includes payment of volunteer firefighters, massive new purchases of firefighting equipment, reequipping the defence forces to make them more useful in emergencies like this, and replacing damaged public infrastructure. It’s obvious that $5 billion a year would be little more than a down payment.
Until this particular element of reality penetrates Scott and Josh’s bubble, nothing serious will be done.