Thursday, 6 February 2020
Matters of Public Importance
When people try to work out where things went wrong for this government—and I've noticed over the Christmas period, and I suspect many of my colleagues have noticed, particularly commentators in the press who thought that the Prime Minister was some shrewd operator have been trying to work out why he wasn't as shrewd as he normally was—they will go back to this date: May 19. That's because on May 19, the day after the election, they put their feet up on the desk. They got smug, complacent and arrogant. They thought they didn't have to worry about how they used to do things, that they were home and hosed and that they could resist the way in which they needed to make decisions and the way they had to work with other people. They thought they were above it all and didn't need to follow the rules in the way they once were. It's that arrogance and complacency that people paid the price for.
This wasn't just some sort of political tactic with no consequence, because so many people who suffered through these bushfires suffered because this arrogant government refused to listen to people in the know—people who had fought fires for decades. These were people who have made that their life's work and who knew what was required. Importantly, they said: 'Something is changing; something is different out there. These fires are not like the ones we used to fight decades ago. We have to deal with this differently. The fire seasons start earlier and finish later, and they require more resources.'
They wrote to the government earlier in the year and the government ignored them. They raised their concerns regularly and the government refused to meet with them. We hear the Prime Minister say, when he is challenged on why he didn't take on board the advice of these people who have a huge amount of experience, who are in the know and who care about what's going on, 'I just talk to people who are currently in the job.' What a disgraceful way to treat people who have gone out of their way to warn the government and say, 'You need to do things differently.'
The Prime Minister dismisses the experience and wisdom of people who've been in the job before but he can pick up the phone to former prime ministers. John Howard was Prime Minister so many years beforehand, but he could pick up the phone to him. I actually don't have an issue with that. I think we should rely on the experience of former prime ministers regardless of their political hue. But, if you can do it with him, why can't you do it with experienced people who reckon that you need to do things differently?
And then we should ask: why aren't you counting the cost of ignoring that advice? There was the equipment and the resources and all the assets that were required to help people fight these terrible fires, and they weren't there. So then he had to play catch-up. Worst of all, what got me going on the day that the Prime Minister decided to go out and make the announcement that he was bringing in all these reservists—finally, after getting back from his overseas jaunt and actually showing some form of leadership—was the reaction of the Rural Fire Service commissioner to what was going on. That person took a calculated risk to chip the Prime Minister of this country publicly, saying that on one of the toughest days they faced during the bushfires they'd had to divert resources to deal with the Prime Minister's announcement about what was going on. They had to do that at that point in time, and it was clear they hadn't been consulted. Why? Because the government spent more time cutting a political ad that they could put up to get a few dollars for political donations than they did talking to a bloke with the integrity of Shane Fitzsimmons. It was just a disgrace!
The government are not upfront and they're not serious about it. And it's not only that. They're not just complacent; they're also full of cowardice. They won't deal with some of the serious things driving climate change because of those people over there—the member for New England and the member for Dawson, who scoffed when people were raising issues about climate change during the course of this discussion. That is why the government will not take climate change seriously, why they're quite happy to ignore all the advice about what's going on. We've just heard, with the chortling that is going on over there, that they refuse to accept what is happening. The public know this is an issue. The people in those bushfire-affected areas know this is an issue. They're expecting better and they deserve better, and they don't need a smug and arrogant government in this place.