Australia is facing its darkest hour. It is at war during peace time with Mother Nature.
In her most expressive display of fury, a furnace of destruction is tearing through communities throughout Victoria, NSW, SA and WA – decimation understates the unfolding catastrophe – yet the worst is to come.
Ablaze and burning to the ground, it seems there’s no end in sight to Hell’s Kitchen NSW and Victoria are trapped in.
While the fires rage with destructive force, wiping out towns and vast acreage, the heroic men and women volunteer firefighters and the ADF are fighting inevitability.
What Mother Nature is delivering is not only a powerful statement of destruction where thousands of Australians are now displaced, lives lost, homes and livelihoods destroyed, economies ruined, and a humanitarian crisis not yet experienced in Australia. Let’s not forget the millions of wildlife killed.
It has no longer become a matter of saving property, but a fight for existence. It’s about the evacuation of towns and saving lives. Whatever the raging walls of hell’s furnace has, something must give.
In any war, victory is achieved when armies are equipped and its leadership is strong and decisive – as shown by Victorian and NSW Premiers, Daniel Andrews and Gladys Berijiklian, and their State Emergency Commissioners, Andrew Crisp and Shane Fitzsimmons. They have led in extraordinary times through extraordinary leadership.
But what about Scott Morrison? The Prime Minister has become his own worst enemy and is now an apparent foe of the Australian people.
Australians have turned against the one person they look to in a national crisis for assurance he is in the trenches with them in the battle against Mother Nature. Little has become too late for Mr Morrison.
At a time when the fires were ravaging and not at their devastating peak, his Hawaiian holiday, although unfortunately timed, should have seen the PM immediately turn back than be embarrassed by the media and swell of public animosity. Australians have every right to ask: where is the PM?
Mr Morrison was missing as Australia burned. It’s not a good look when the people you represent see you on holidays while they suffer. It sends a message of putting yourself ahead of national interest. Australians may not forgive or forget.
He has suffered one PR disaster after another. It’s hard to see how he can recover from a situation where savvy media advice and his emotional intellect should have guided him through a time of national crisis and show what a real leader he is.
That opportunity has been wasted, and Mr Morrison must rethink what it means to be PM.
He has to regain the trust of Australians and must address his advisers for failing to foresee the dangerous ground they naively thought were winners as media opportunities that fell flat either through inexperience or arrogance.
Life’s lessons are not learned by handing out how to vote cards at polling booths and then rewarded with key advisory roles because you’ve been loyal party apparatchiks.
Mr Morrison needs to understand that Australians won’t accept anything less from its leader than a rolling up of the sleeves and being in the trenches by their side.
Australians don’t expect the PM to fight fires, but they do expect him to be on top of his game, sleeves rolled up, in daily contact with fire command, present at news briefings, speaking regularly to the Australian public, visiting fire fighters at fire fronts, talking to communities, and reassuring them he will do everything possible to provide assistance and relief. That’s leadership!
“Johnny on the spot”, to coin an American euphemism, is what Australians expect of their leaders, especially when a national crisis takes hold.
Leaders are judged by their actions, what they do and how they respond. How they provide hope to the unfortunate, empathy and connectedness, and shine a light when times are at their darkest.
guided Britain in its darkest hour during World War II, when all looked helpless and Nazi Germany knocked perilously close on England’s door.
He stood defiant especially amongst some members of his own cabinet who wanted to strike a deal with Hitler. Churchill rallied England’s faith, gave hope and instilled belief to fight when the Nazi Jackboot looked ready to kick down England’s door and stomp all over it.
That is what leaders do and how they act.
Scott Morrison is no Churchill. If anything, history is a great teacher. All he has to do is look at what made Churchill great and why England thwarted a Nazi invasion.
The time has come for Morrison to be like Churchill and shine a light and guide Australia through its darkest hour in its war with Mother Nature.
George Hazim is the managing director of Media and Public Affairs Australia.