Right now we are seeing the best and worst of the Australian community in the midst of a devastating event. Rural firefighters should be commended for their bravery and indefatigable commitment to serving us all. Generous Australians are offering their homes to displaced people and donating what they can. State, federal and local governments are coordinating around the clock in response to this devastating and unprecedented disaster.
Yet, we are also seeing the worst of Australia. We are seeing a vicious campaign led by trolls on social media to target political opponents, namely Scott Morrison, public enemy number one.
Let’s look at some facts surrounding this crisis and try to cut through the hysteria being shared on social media.
FACT ONE – The Federal Government has been responding since November 8.
The federal defence department has been offering support and reinforcements since November 8. Every request from state governments has been promptly granted. Today, the ADF helped evacuate residents and visitors from Mallacoota. As David Crowe accurately reported in today’s Age: They have been refuelling aerial tankers, providing vehicles and drivers for search and rescue operations, serving meals to firefighters and providing accommodation for volunteers.
You can find further details here: https://news.defence.gov.au/national/defence-boosts-bushfire-support
FACT TWO – Emergency management is a state government responsibility.
While the federal government has been clear that all support it can provide will be granted, fire management is and remains a state responsibility.
Morrison was criticised on video for not funding the rural fire service enough, but this is ultimately not his responsibility.
You can find further details here via the CFA: https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/about/who-does-what
FACT THREE – Reports that the NSW government cut money from the Rural Fire Service are not accurate.
ABC Fact Check investigated this claim and its verdict was that it ‘doesn’t stack up’.
You can read that report here: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-05/fact-check-are-nsw-firefighters-facing–budget-cuts/11747396
FACT FOUR – Hazard reduction burns are more complicated than they appear, so it is equally unhelpful to just blame ‘greenies’ for the problem.
ABC Fact Checker ran an investigation into the complexity of hazard reduction burns that you can find here:
FACT FIVE: ABC Gippsland reported in September that protesters forced a reduction in a hazard reduction burn.
The original plan was 370 hectares. This was reduced to 9 hectares. ABC Gippsland has since deleted this post from Facebook.
FACT SIX: Australian governments, state or federal, Labor or Liberal, are not directly responsible for the fires.
Blaming the federal government directly for the fires, as rhetorically convenient as it might be, does not stand up to scrutiny or rationality. Australia emits 1.3% of global emissions. However, Australia is the biggest exporter of coal. As The Conversation reported earlier this year, if this was factored in, Australia’s emissions climb to above 4%.
You can find that report here: https://theconversation.com/how-to-answer-the-argument-that-australias-emissions-are-too-small-to-make-a-difference-118825
Australia is the highest emitter of carbon per capita in the world. Still, it does not follow that a country with low carbon emissions can directly, on its own, be responsible for the changing climate that is exacerbating the fires.
FACT SEVEN: Australia’s emissions are lowering, but its policies are subject to international criticism.
Australia’s emissions have dropped 12.9% since 2005. During the same time, China’s emissions have risen 67 per cent, alongside India rising even more at 77 per cent. Energy minister, Angus Taylor, wrote this last week. The Guardian fact checked this claim. It found the claim to be accurate; however, it pointed out that the main emission reductions in Australia have been due to a reduction in land use.
Unfortunately, most people are sharing hit pieces, outrage inducing headlines or memes on social media, and this is all of the information they are getting. Hopefully this helps people to be better informed. Stay safe, everyone.