Australian government treats volunteer firefighters like shit

This 21 December 2019 video says about itself:

Environmental activists marched in Sydney on Saturday, protesting against Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who they denounced for reportedly being on holidays while the state of New South Wales, where Sydney is located, is ravaged by bushfires.

Footage shows the protesters marching on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, carrying banners and flags denouncing Morrison and calling for action against the bushfires and climate change.

“We’ve got a prime minister who’s missing in action and he is in denial when it comes to climate change. And since last week, we’ve seen additional drilling approved in the Great Australian Bight. This is a government owned by the fossil fuel industry and this crowd is saying they’re sick of it,” said David Shoebridge, Greens MP.

Morrison was pictured on holiday in Hawaii in recent days, as New South Wales has been ravaged by a catastrophic bushfire season, burning 3,700,000 hectares (9,142,899 acres) so far, destroying over 2,500 buildings and killing at least 12 people.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Australia’s voluntary fire brigade is getting exhausted; shortage of money and equipment

The stories are distressing: a volunteer firefighter in Lithgow, Australia, was extinguishing for hours, but on returning home saw that part of his own home had burned down. Volunteers are on the move for weeks, without being paid for it. They sometimes even pay expenses for food, drinks and equipment from their own pockets. Some volunteers take out loans to pay for it financially.

Volunteer firefighters are crucial in fighting forest fires in Australia. The country has the largest voluntary force in the world. Around 200,000 people, from bakers to lawyers and from pensioners to students, are available on call. But the large number of volunteers is getting exhausted. Moreover, there has been a shortage of money and equipment.

Prime Minister Scott Morrisson made a little concession. He promised volunteers working in the public sector 20 days of paid leave this morning. Criticism immediately followed, because what about volunteers who have jobs at private companies or run their own? They don’t earn any money for weeks.

In addition, material shortages occur. For example, because the equipment, such as the firefighters‘ mouth caps, is not designed for intensive use. Prime Minister Morrison pledged an additional $ 11 million for firefighting aircraft, but still refuses to release more money for the voluntary fire brigade. That is why fire brigades try to raise money with crowdfunding to fund better equipment. …

Although large cities have a paid corps, many villages and towns depend on volunteers for their protection against the fires.

The same goes for the husband of the Australian Meg McGowan. An online post that she wrote on her blog was viewed hundreds of thousands of times. In it she asks whether the prime minister “really thinks people want to spend their summer this way.”

“Does the prime minister understand what it feels like when my husband comes home, smeared with ash? With only a wafer-thin face mask between his vulnerable lungs and the toxic smoke? No,” she writes. “Prime Minister Morrison, my husband does not want to spend his summer putting out forest fires. But he does it because he cares about his community and nature. If only we could say the same of our prime minister.”

Criticism of the prime minister

The criticism of Australian Prime Minister Morrison is piling up. The prime minister went on vacation to Hawaii, while fires of unprecedented proportions raged in Australia. Only after a storm of criticism did he return. But he is still blamed for lack of leadership.

Morrison rejects that criticism. “I don’t hold the hose, mate,” the prime minister said in a radio interview. The prime minister also sees no reason to make extra money available for the voluntary fire brigades.

Due to climate change, the Australian fire season is longer and more intense than ever. An area larger than the Netherlands has now burned down and the fires will not stop before March. The ecological damage will be felt for years to come. Some fires are so big that they are impossible to extinguish. The air quality in large cities has been extremely poor for weeks. Around 900 homes were destroyed and seven people died, including two members of the voluntary fire brigade.

14 thoughts on “Australian government treats volunteer firefighters like shit

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