Australia is experiencing a catastrophic series of bushfires; temperatures just west of Sydney have reached the mid-40s Celsius in the past 24 hours; coastal towns are having to be evacuated by sea; hundreds have lost their homes; and amongst the unfolding apocalyptic scenes, the country’s centre-right Prime Minister appears utterly clueless as to what to do. Also, a player familiar to UK media watchers is at work behind the scenes.
December 20: there are bushfires ...
The Murdoch press is maintaining its climate change denial, and at the same time relegating the bushfire news to play down what many Australians know all too well is happening. While papers in the UK like the Guardian made those fires their front page lead on Thursday last, the Murdoch Australian showed only the aftermath of the fires, which in any case was clearly only the second lead in that day’s second edition.
... December 24: there aren't any fires. But we're talking about climate ...
Worse, as the Guardian has reported, “the Australian’s first edition ran an upbeat picture story about the New Year’s Day picnic races at Hanging Rock … Sources at the newspaper said the newsroom was short-staffed over the holidays, however it was noted that resources were found to attack the ABC with gusto over its New Year’s Eve concert”. There are always enough Murdoch resources to attack the ABC.
... January 2: Oh yes there are fires, and it's bad ...
That report continued “The Australian is not the only Murdoch-owned newspaper that has been accused of downplaying the bushfires. On New Year’s Eve, Melbourne’s the Herald Sun also relegated the bushfires to page 4, even as thousands of Victorians faced a serious bushfire threat … On the same day, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph blamed the Bureau of Meteorology for inaccurate weather predictions”. And it got even worse.
... Oh all right, we'll put them in our later edition then
The Courier Mail “carried the optimistic news that ‘Onion Oracle’ Halwyn Hermann was predicting rain using an old German tradition. They even compared the Onion Oracle’s predictions to those of the bureau of meteorology”. Climate change? Political issue. Don’t talk about it. Guardian calling out the Australian? Just press infighting.
So how bad is the situation? Bodie Ashton has given us some perspective. “More Aussie land is currently burning than exists in the entire country of Belgium. The smoke is causing breathing problems in New Zealand, 2,000km away. Half a billion animals have been killed. Eight people are dead … One-seventh of the state of Victoria is on fire. The fire front in the state of New South Wales is so long that, if you made it a straight line, it would stretch from Sydney to Afghanistan. The fires are being fought by volunteers”. Do go on.
“The Australian government refuses to discuss the fact that the NSW fires have now been burning for three months, and will still be burning in three months. Climate change is a ‘political issue’ that shouldn’t be discussed at this time … Many of the volunteer firefighters are unemployed; their benefits have been suspended because, while they’re saving people and habitats and homes, they can’t apply for the requisite number of jobs per week the government expects them to to continue receiving benefits”. Getting the picture?
“The Australian Prime Minister, at the height of the crisis, went on holiday to Hawaii, which his office first denied and then insisted he was trying to get home, but it’s impossible to get flights from Honolulu to Sydney … The NSW emergency services minister has also gone on holidays. And in the midst of this, the PM has declared that the country should take heart from its brave and courageous...cricketers, who are playing against New Zealand”.
Recognise the UK parallels yet? Politicians lying, benefit sanctions, deflection, denial … but back to Ashton’s thread (see it all HERE). “Also, while the entire country faced catastrophic fire warnings (so no barbecues, people!), the cities all had fireworks displays. One, in Adelaide, very unsurprisingly caused a (thankfully limited) brush fire. Millions were spent on these. But not to pay the firefighters”. There was a 250,000 strong petition urging cancellation of the Sydney New Year fireworks. It went unheeded.
As to the idea that “there are bushfires every year, so what’s the problem?”, well, this: “It is true that Australia has bushfires every year, but the sheer scale of this event is unprecedented, as well as the fact that the fire season is now so long that typical preventative initiatives, such as backburning, are far too dangerous”. And there is more.
“The devastation in Australia right now far exceeds the Amazon fires or the California fires by many orders of magnitude, and there is no expectation that it will recede for at least several more months. In parts of Sydney, breathing the air is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes. The average temperature across the entire country has been above 40C. Australia is roughly the size of the contiguous United States. Imagine it being that temperature on average anywhere in the country, from Denver to Boston, Seattle to NYC”.
Scott Morrison: clueless Murdoch stooge ...
This is the disaster that Australian PM Scott Morrison, another in a long line of Murdoch-backed nonentities, has been both unable and unwilling to confront. He has failed to show leadership. Worse, he cannot show leadership. But he can depend on the Murdoch press to do its utmost to pretend it’s not really happening, and all the while kick the ABC instead.
... whose real boss gives his opinion on climate change
No one issue shows more clearly the corrosive effect of Murdoch’s hideously warped priorities, and his unforgivable pretence that climate change is not really happening.
His home country is literally on fire and he doesn’t care. I’ll just leave that one there.
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