Australia fires: Malcolm Turnbull accuses Scott Morrison of ‘misleading’ nation

  • January 22, 2020

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends the funeral of NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteer firefighter Samuel McPaul at Holbrook Sports Stadium in Albury, NSW, Australia, January 17, 2020. AAP Image/Brad Newman/via REUTERS

Australian PM Scott Morrison has been accused of lacking leadership during the bushfire crisis – by the man he replaced after a party room coup.

Malcolm Turnbull, who was deposed in 2018, told the BBC that Mr Morrison had misled the country by “downplaying” the influence of global warming.

Morrison apologised last month for taking a US holiday amid the fires. He has insisted his policies are adequate.

But Turnbull said he “cannot explain” his successor’s approach.

In a wide-ranging interview, Turnbull also said US President Donald Trump was the world’s “leading climate denier” and that America’s lack of leadership was “extremely damaging”.

Turnbull said “everybody knew we were in a very dry time” before the fire season, and that it “was likely to be very bad”.

“Rather than doing what a leader should do… [Morrison] downplayed it, and at times discounted the influence of climate change, which is just nonsense from a scientific point of view. So that’s misleading people,” said Turnbull.

“Then of course [he] chose to go away on holiday in Hawaii at the peak of the crisis. So I can’t explain any of that.

“It’s just not consistent with the way in which a prime minister would or should act in a national crisis like this.”

Since September, bushfires have scarred Australia. At least 30 people have died, livelihoods have been lost along with thousands of homes, while the catastrophic impact on wildlife may never be known.

Morrison has conceded he caused “great anxiety in Australia” by taking his family to the US as record-breaking heat exacerbated fires.

“I know there are some who’ve tried to make political points and score points in the midst of these disasters, and that’s disappointing,” he said before Christmas.

He asserted that climate change was “one of many factors” responsible for the blazes.

As the fires have raged, so has the debate about climate change and its part in Australia’s destructive summer. (BBC)