A creepy post about ScoMo's lies
on the two-year anniversary of the bushfires
Exactly two years ago I wrote a blog post about “Why Australians must rage at Prime Minister ScoMo”. It was in the middle of the 2019/2020 bushfires.
Emily Atkin, a US climate reporter (regarded as America’s foremost; she even got Twitter to change it’s fossil fuel advertising policy), approached me to run the article on her substack. She ran with the header, “Think American climate politics is bad? Wait 'til you hear about Australia.” Cut to right now, I wound up having her on my Wild with Sarah Wilson podcast as my guest. The episode just went live and if you click here it will go straight to your platform of choice. We talk about how,
The climate crisis isn’t happening to us, it is being done to us. Thus, we must get angry.
Emily argues the climate crisis is a corruption story and should be treated as such. All of which made me think it could be good to revisit the post 24 months on as we head to an election which will determine our PM’s fate.
I found it a very interesting (and spooky) exercise to read the post again.
Three take homes for me: 1. So little has changed, 2. The lies were a shocking and new thing back then (and so clearly part of his makeup), 3. We still don’t have answers on whether his fundamentalist faith influences his views on climate change… and this worries me.
I’d love your thoughts on both my chat with Emily, the idea of climate rage and how you felt reading the below with two years of hindsight.
December 23, 2019 - January 6, 2020
Australia is burning. Twenty eight people are confirmed dead and 1.25 million animals have been killed (Update Jan 2022: 34 people died and more than three billion animals were killed; smoke from the fires was linked to 445 deaths).
Many of us are raging at Prime Minster Scott Morrison, but remain unsure whether our rage is appropriate, or “allowed”. Indeed, I’m witnessing influencers share the dramatic images accompanied by split heart emotions but accompanied by messages that we should not be political right now. This stuns me. Politics didn’t flick the match, sure. But clearly politics permeates the whole sorry situation. Plus, crucially, compassionate, competent political leadership is what we need to move forward….and it’s sorely absent. Indeed, ScoMo’s leadership is proving wholly unkind, incompetent and political.
We are also confused as to what rationale we can use in a considered debate. And what power we might have as individuals to change things. We feel overwhelmed hopeless, helpless and disempowered.
My take: Over several decades we have become politically disengaged, lulled into a false and constructed belief that “those in charge” will do the right thing, and that “someone else” will hold them accountable if they don’t. Like the media. Or other politicians.
But those in charge haven’t been doing the right thing. They’ve ruined our water supply, our reefs, they’ve sold off chunks of our land, they’ve allowed thousands of animals to become extinct. And they’ve got away with it because we’ve not been paying attention and we’ve half-bought their non-truths and distractions (while the media’s impartiality has been eroded). I think we are now genuinely bewildered that we have landed in a place so dire.
How did this happen? Why didn’t anyone do anything? Why weren’t we warned?
And we feel guilty and embarrassed for allowing it to happen.
At the same time, and in part due to our guilt, we struggle to accept that when governments fail us, it’s our right - our responsibility - to get activist, to overthrow, to drag the people we pay to represent us over the coals. It’s deeply uncomfortable - and seems feral and extremist - but here we are.
I think we all know that it’s time to engage in our rage and pay attention. And to get deadly effective, and not just pay hashtagged “thoughts and prayers” lip service.
Perhaps this will be useful…
A rundown of why ScoMo must be held to account…
(Note: I provide links to reputable, impartial sources, such as The Conversation, The Guardian, The ABC, as well as traditionally LNP-propping papers, for “balance”. Don’t take my word for it…read up. Think, reflect, ask questions. Discuss calmly and kindly with truth, compassion and effectiveness as the end goal. Also note, I refer to our Prime Minister as ScoMo as this is what he calls himself, plus it aptly reflects, in many ways, his too-casual approach to matters of such importance.)
The ScoMo Government was indeed warned of the fires.
Former fire and safety chiefs – 23 of them – wrote to Scott Morrison in April, requesting they meet to speak to him about the effects of climate change and the “catastrophic extreme weather events putting lives, properties and livelihoods at greater risk”. ScoMo refused the invite.
Indeed the Government has ignored countless warnings over three decades (check out this rundown), including those calling for a national large air-tanker fleet in May 2016, that could have radically reduced the effect of the fires.
On top of this, a major report by Professor Ross Garnaut commissioned by the government in 2007 and delivered in 2008 clearly predicted catastrophic fire “in 2020” if nothing is done.
And yet ScoMo continues to dupe us, repeatedly saying, “No one could have predicted this”.
Then ScoMo told us were just panicking.
His government accused us of being raging “lunatics” and then tried to ban protests and the democratic right to speak up.
In November ScoMo told coal industry folk of “a new breed of radical activist, apocalyptic in tone and an insidious threat”, then promised new legislation to have them arrested. In addition, his government has been cracking down on unions, civic organizations and journalists. Under legislation pending in Tasmania environmental protesters now face up to 21 years in jail for demonstrating.
This is the behaviour of a dictator, no?
He denied additional funding to the firefighters.
And did so on that day in December of Sydney’s worst air pollution on record, equivalent to smoking 32 cigarettes a day.
Then he went on holiday in Hawaii
Is this so bad? Everyone needs a holiday. Yeah. Except leaders don’t do holidays in crises. They just don’t.
Which says to me, he doesn’t think we’re in crisis. Or he can’t admit to it. I’ll say it a few times here, he doesn’t get it.
The details of how he handled things in the aftermath are just horrible, including his blaming his kids and issuing the classic “I’m sorry if I offended people” style of non-apology. I’ll leave it to you to read the links.
On top of this, his office denied he was there. Then he was seen having drinks after tweeting he was rushing home. Then he refused to rule out not taking another holiday within a week or so.
Which leads to his coal interests
I can’t do the layers of vested interest this Government has in the fossil fuel industry justice here. I recommend you watch this 15 minute documentary by investigative journalist Michael West. It was released in May 2019, but is still relevant. It’s stunning and sickening. But you must watch it. It brings together many of the news items you’ve probably been grabbing glimpses of over the past few years.
Be sure to form your own opinion, though.
Also in November (2019), just before he came out declaring that there is no link between coal, climate change and the fires (see below), a major UN report forecast Australia to be the sixth-largest producer of fossil fuels by 2030, contributing to a carbon emission prediction four times what’s required to keep global heating below the 1.5C we know to be the dangerous tipping point for our survival.
When ScoMo claims – with much bluster – that we are too small a country to make a difference to global CO2 emissions, he is totally ignoring this vital point. I’ll say it again: sixth-largest producer of fossil fuels!
According to the Economist: “The report lays much blame on (the Australian) governments’ generosity to fossil-fuel industries” and details at length how Australia supports its fossil fuel industries.
And his religious beliefs…
We have been left to wonder if ScoMo’s Pentecostal faith has had a part to play in his decisions.
Yes, absolutely, he has a right to his faith. (And the fundamentals of Christianity and most spiritual traditions pose little threat to our democracy, and mostly nourish it.) So long as he does not allow it to influence his politics in a detrimental, unrepresentative way. As a bare minimum.
Most Pentecostals are eschatological, awaiting the second coming of Jesus triggered by cataclysmic events. My understanding is that many believe that we are all living in the “end times” now. And so there is no need to act on potentially cataclysmic, apocalyptic stuff… ‘cos Jesus is coming!
The thing is, this “rapture” (as it’s called) sees only believers saved and lifted to heaven. The rest of us are left to literally burn in hell (on earth).
I’m asking myself, as are many, how much of ScoMo’s inaction is to do with this hardcore faith. And, if he’s a true believer, where is he leading the rest of us?
I feel awkward raising this. It’s almost unfathomable and, thus, seems wrong to raise it as a consideration. But the suggestion has come from former members of ScoMo’s church and, given the extremities playing out, and the irrational response from our Prime Minister right now, it’s fair to ask the question. And we have a right to know the answers.
Within days of denying additional funding to volunteer fire fighters, he gave $111,000 to his church.
Which is not a lot of cash in the scheme, but, again, it’s just not what a leader does. Also on that day in December (2019) of Sydney’s worst air pollution on record, ScoMo pushed through his amended religious freedom legislation, holds a press conference and the whole circus. Crook. Look. Deeply insensitive. At best.
Then he actually AXED THE ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT!
Yep! And dumped the portfolio into Agriculture where Barnaby Joyce and Michael McCormack (he of the raging “inner-city lunatics” line) are to take care of things. Since then, McCormack has * actually* blamed the fires on exploding horse manure.
Digest that for a moment.
The best experts in the country confirm climate change is at play. ScoMo has denied this repeatedly.
In November 2019, Scott Morrison argued there is no direct link between greenhouse gas emissions and the severity of fires ravaging the country. “The suggestion that any way shape or form that Australia, accountable for 1.3% of the world’s emissions, that the individual actions of Australia are impacting directly on specific fire events, whether it’s here or anywhere else in the world, that doesn’t bear up to credible scientific evidence either”.
Which is patently untrue (need we even remind ourselves of this?). The leading experts in the world categorically confirm the connection between coal, climate change and the fires.
He even said we could increase emissions.
Meanwhile, the world’s media and leaders are talking about our PM as laughing stock. And dangerous. (Update Jan 2022: We have also been described as holding the rest of the world back on climate change and have ranked last in the world on climate policy on the most recent index.)
He then backflipped. And lied.
In early January 2020 he claimed, after observing his “quiet Australians” getting loud and angry that,“the government has always made the connection between climate change and extreme weather conditions.”
Is it deluded, immoral or just truly inappropriate leadership to treat us as idiots in this way? You decide.
Meanwhile, the Government tried to wriggle out of our existing (pathetic) climate commitments.
During all this, at the Madrid conference, Australia was accused of “cheating” and named as one of a handful of nations that thwarted the Paris climate agreement. Embarrassing.
And just as Australia got ranked 57th out of 57 countries on climate change policy.
Australia scored the lowest possible rating of 0.0, compared with the highest-scoring country, Portugal, which was ranked best for its climate policy at 97.8 per cent. The 2020 Climate Change Performance Index, prepared by a group of thinktanks comprising the NewClimate Institute, the Climate Action Network and Germanwatch, looks at national climate action across the categories of emissions, renewable energy, energy use and policy.
On the assessment of national and international climate policy, Australia was singled out as the worst-performing, with the report saying the re-elected Morrison government “has continued to worsen performance at both national and international levels”.
“Experts observe a lack of progress to reduce the country’s very high level of emissions,” Greenwatch policy adviser Ursurla Hagen said. “With greenhouse gas per capita emissions of 21.1 tonnes, Australia ranks last for the indicator on current levels in the greenhouse gas emissions category. Further, experts observe that the government is playing an increasingly regressive force in international negotiations.” Again, embarrassing.
(Update Jan 2022: As above, we now/still rank zero/last on climate policy, even post COP26.)
All of which he refused to comment on when journalists raised it. Just, simply, refused.
When asked by journalists why he wouldn’t comment, he said dismissively,”It’s not credible”. That’s it. Then he walked off. The report’s authors rejected Morrison’s avoidant answer saying the assessment was based on scientific criteria and official data. You know, facts.
It’s all sounding very Trump-esque.
We deserve feedback, explanation, reasons. He’s not a recalcitrant uncle at the end of the table at Christmas lunch. He’s our Prime Minister.
Then this was his New Year message published in newspapers across the country:
“Australians have never been fussed about trying to impress people overseas or respond to what others tell us we should think or what we should do. We have always made our own decisions in Australia.”
Yes, but the climate is a global concern, ScoMo.
Then as fires got dire in January he authorised a Liberal party ad about the fires…
…with (wait for it) a “donate” button that sees funds going (OMFG) to the Liberal party. The ad shows Scott Morrison in the field, taking charge (angry locals refusing to shake his hand, see below, are nowhere to be seen).
This is vile, unconscionable, from another planet… you decide.
When right-wing pundit Piers Morgan declares it “a self-promotional commercial” and “shameless & shameful”, you know it must be bad (check out his tear-down of Australian Liberal MP Craig Kelly on British TV; Kelly argues climate change has nothing to do with the fires.)
But to be sure, the Australian Defence Association (ADA) — a public-interest watchdog of Australian Defence matters — said on Twitter “milking ADF support to civil agencies fighting bushfires” was a “clear breach of the (reciprocal) non-partisanship convention applying to both the ADF & Ministers/MPs”.
As kids wept and towns burned ScoMo told us it’s going to be a great summer for cricket
Merely deluded, out of touch, perhaps? But he’s the Prime Minister FFS. And he has advisors. Lots of them. Which suggests this delusion isn’t a one-off mistake, it’s the whole flavour of the party. On New Year’s Day, in the aftermath of some of the worst loss and damage, photos emerged of ScoMo hosting the Australian cricket team in Sydney.
He has drip-fed aid, too late
But it gets worse. New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said he found out about the recent additional military aid via media, leaving him unprepared as to how the measures would be integrated while his crews battled a dozen fire emergencies across the state.
Again, a leader just doesn’t do that.
He’s not shutting down misinformation, he’s fuelling it.
Dismissing the scientists is criminal right now. We accept and respect science’s gold-standard methodology on everything else, why not climate change, a threat to our very existence?
Right up until a few days ago ScoMo was arguing hazard reduction was the bigger issue, playing into the factually wrong argument that the Greens blocked hazard reduction, blahblah (a line educated, smart people I know still believe). Of course, it’s a line the Murdoch press has fed the country, very effectively, with entirely vested interests.
At this point, I’m just going to pause and throw this in…if, like one of my friends who I chatted to last night, you’re thinking this seems all too farcical to be true, I just want to flag that the scientists, the impartial media and the firefighters don’t have a vested interest in sharing these facts. There is no reason to be suspicious of what they tell us. Scott Morrison’s government, ScoMo himself and Rupert Murdoch on the other hand… they have a lot to gain from refuting the facts and from spreading the line that the “science is not confirmed”.
He forced fire victims to shake his hand.
And didn’t get it when they refused. And then, Good Lord, he gave a press conference and said these distraught, exhausted people were being “emotional” and that they dissed him only because he was the first leader in town.
This was after rolling into town without telling the State leaders.
Leaders just don’t do this. Period.
And just before – reportedly – launching a campaign to put the blame for his inappropriate behaviour onto the State leaders.
ScoMo was due to fly to India in early January to meet with Adani…
To chat coal. Yep. Although he announced after all the above went down he’s cancelled the trip. Presumably he’s got the message that this would probably be a really crook look. Of course, the discussions will continue
Finally, the LNP ran a “Scott Morrison wants to know what matters to you” survey… and never came back to us.
I shared their survey around a few weeks before Christmas, in good faith. Many of us took time to fill it in and explain that “tackling the climate crisis” (I think that was the wording of the option that was placed down the bottom of the list) was what mattered to us. I rang his office, I emailed several times, to ask what was being done with the results of the survey and whether they could confirm it was not being used for voter targeting purposes. I was promised I’d get a reply. I didn’t. I chased. Nothing. It’s added to my concern that the Liberal Party and ScoMo really don’t care what matters to us. (Note, I also contacted my local MP Dave Sharma…no reply).
I think this display of unkind, too-often-deluded ineptness will go on and on. Because this is the bottom line: ScoMo doesn’t get it. (Update Jan 2022: It does!)
But it’s not that he doesn’t get the truth or the facts. He does. He knows the science, he got the warnings, the predictions.
What he doesn’t get is that he can’t dupe us like this. That he can’t lie. That he can’t tell us we shouldn’t feel as we do.
And he doesn’t get that we would eventually catch on to his motives, which, let’s be honest, is preserving his ties to the coal industry, which fund and enable his prime ministership.
He doesn’t get that his behaviour right now is entirely inappropriate because he is so tied up in the act of defending his vested and, to be frank, corrupt position, at all costs. He must gaslight, deflect, blame and tell non-truths to survive, at least psychologically.
And so he is psychologically, spiritually, politically incapable of being compassionate and relating to us.
He is literally, in all functioning senses, incapable of being a leader. Agree?
Dare I say it, I feel for him. I think he’s genuinely shocked by our rage. I think he’s dismayed that he is getting it all so wrong in the most train-wreckish way.
I’d normally allow more room for error, perhaps wait for a mia culpa, see if he does some make-good, except this is an emergency. We know this. We all know this at some level, even if some of us are still coming to grips with the data.
When a democracy is faced with a leader incapable of representing its people at such a fundamental level, we speak up and demand change. That’s what we do. (And it’s not the same as what happened to former PMs in recent years; they were rolled by their parties). It hasn’t been done for a while. We are not used to it. It feels weird. But we must do it anyway.
Yep, we voted him in. And we get the leaders we deserve. And so on. True. But voters were duped into this line during the election campaign, and now that the misinformation is being exposed, and more facts and urgency are coming to light, we are allowed to demand the leader we need.
On balance, after considering the credible information I’ve been able to access, I believe our Prime Minster must find a way to “get it” – that is, meet us and lead us with the bold truth – or step down. I’d prefer the former option, because I truly hope for growth and awakening. It would be a powerful and beautiful thing indeed if we could get ScoMo to shift his perspective, admit he got it wrong, apologise wholeheartedly and move forward radically and progressively with a climate emergency agenda. Oh, and would it be asking too much to imagine him committing to answering questions honestly, without that horrible circumventing of the point to tediously irrelevant and distracting bluster? (To ask that he acknowledge his vested interests, might be a bridge too far.)
What do you reckon? Surreal? OK, I’ll leave you to your seasonal break.
Please do share with your friends. And I’ll see you in the New Year!
Ah. What to publicly call the prime minister. Been pondering this for a while. I take your point as to why you have chosen to use ScoMo but I cringe every time I hear that nickname because he loves it, he wants us all to call him that, cute adorable happy little guy that he is. He thinks this name makes him more relatable, just your average, she'll-be-right, bonza aussie boy with a big heart. Genius marketing to hide behind.
I don't buy it. I actually kind of loath it.
Did you catch Fran Kelly's final interview on RN where she interviewed Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame? Grace consistently referred to the prime minister as Scott. When she first said it I was like, wow, that sounds so intimate. Sounds like she's talking about a close friend or family member. I'm sure she didn't realise that you are not meant to address the prime minister, in public, by his first name. I have never heard anyone publicly call the PM Scott, or even among friends, have you? Unlike the UK PM. But that's probably because Boris has a cartoonish flavour to it, it's not your everyday kind of name. Unlike Scott, common as muck.
When Grace was telling Fran about the various meetings she'd had with Scott I imagined them both in leisure wear at the local cafe. I found it strange and jarring to hear. But the more I thought about it the more I warmed to it. Simply because of the effect it had.
Imagine Sarah if you replaced all your ScoMos in this piece with Scott. Totally changes how you engage with the content, I think. When my usual solo Xmas/ New Year gig finishes its run I'm going to experiment with using the S word, a la Grace, in all future conversations about the leader of our country and observe the responses. I have a lovely bro-in-law called Scott so it might get tricky talking climate politics with my family but not going to stop me. I think it will be fun.
I see a national community performance piece in this idea. The Scott Project. Possibility for federal funding, Paul Fletcher, MP?
Thanks so much for the detailed review of ScoMo's appalling responses to us and our planet's needs. Why don't enough people get the fact that many Australian politicians are just a boys club that want to make money for themselves and their mates? The natural has almost disappeared from many peoples' lives as they are online and inside most of the time. There is no relationship, interest or empathy with other creatures who inhabit this earth. How do we awaken the connection to the natural world? If there is a relationship then there can be care and compassion.