Tennis legend smashes Scott Morrison
AUSTRALIAN tennis icon Pat Cash has slammed Prime Minister Scott Morrison over his handling of the bushfire crisis, in an appearance on British TV.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, the 1987 Wimbledon champion hit out at the PM for being too slow to react to the fires devastating large parts of the country, and questioned why he didn't listen to the advice of experts ahead of one of the worst summers on record.
"It's unprecedented - there's no doubt this involves climate (change)," Cash said.
"There's lives being lost, there's no one that hasn't been touched in Australia.
"There's been a very, very slow reaction from the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, he didn't listen to the fire chiefs.
"Six months ago, 20 of the ex-fire chiefs got together and wrote a letter and wanted to sit down with the Prime Minister warning exactly that this was going to happen.
"(They said) 'We're inadequately equipped, we need to do something, we need to be ready for the disaster, it's imminent', and sure enough it is.
"He's failed the firefighters - he'd been warned.
"They (the firefighters) need more."
In November it was revealed 23 former fire and emergency leaders had tried and failed for months to meet Mr Morrison to discuss what was needed to prepare for the dangerous fire season ahead.
Former NSW Fire and Rescue chief Greg Mullins said the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action Group had been trying since April to ask the Prime Minster for increased help, particularly in the form of more water bombers to fight bushfires from the air.
"We have tried since April to get a meeting with the Prime Minister," Mr Mullins told ABC Radio in November.
"Had we spoken back in April, one of the things we would've said is to try to get more aircraft on lease from the northern hemisphere because (we knew) this was going to be a horror fire season. They can be a decisive weapon.
"If they (the government) had spoken to us back then, maybe they could have allocated more money to have more of those aircraft, but they didn't and they're probably not available now."
A week before Christmas, Mr Mullins told news.com.au "we're still very frustrated that the Prime Minster has refused to meet with us", as he announced plans for former fire chiefs to host their own emergency summit, while voicing his despair about Mr Morrison's lack of communication.
"A range of measures could have been taken but they weren't," Mr Mullins said.
These are the letters sent by former NSW Fires Chief Greg Mullins and 22 other former emergency chiefs to the Prime Minister in April and September predicting a bushfire crisis and requesting a meeting. #nswfires #auspol pic.twitter.com/djhHjHknAe— Zoe Daniel (@zdaniel) November 9, 2019
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Federal Government rejected a $25 million business case to boost funding for air tankers in December 2017, instead offering one-off funding a year later.
Authorities were seeking to improve their aerial firefighting capabilities after warnings in 2016 about the need to do so.
While their request wasn't granted then, this summer from hell has prompted Mr Morrison to say he would offer "ongoing" funding for aerial firefighting resources when the budget was announced in May.
On Monday he announced a $2 billion bushfire recovery fund.
As Mr Mullins referenced, the Prime Minster has been criticised for not doing enough to acquire water-bombing planes from countries in the northern hemisphere, such as America, in anticipation of a hellish fire season - a point Cash was keen to raise.
"We haven't got the equipment, he hasn't reached out to the world to say, 'Help us'," Cash said.
The bushfire crisis has been the biggest test of Mr Morrison's leadership, and some serious questions are being asked.
He was slammed for holidaying in Hawaii as Australia burned, putting the emphasis on the states rather than the Federal Government to act, and on the weekend he was widely lambasted for releasing a video - described by some as a political ad - spruiking his latest measures to deal with the national emergency.
Mr Morrison was recently heckled by angry residents of Cobargo, in the south east of NSW, who accused him of not doing enough to help in their time of need. But the Prime Minster defended his trip to the town, saying the fact he was the "first senior leader" to visit made him a target for people's anger and fear.
"I understand the first person who is going to walk into that town was going to feel the anger and the fury and the frustration and the loss and the fear that was effort in that community," he said during a press conference on Saturday.
Cash is far from the only sporting figure to weigh in on the bushfire crisis.
AFL star Patrick Dangerfield said on Twitter it was "staggering" the Federal Government had released an ad to promote its new initiatives to fight the fires, while Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley issued a blunt message to Australia's leader.
"Leadership is hard. Put your hand up and accept what could have been done better, by you and by others," Buckley tweeted.
"Then accept the vitriol, the hurt and the pain. Listen, understand and empathise. Then take action. Firstly for today and then for tomorrow."
Former Labor PM Kevin Rudd also said on Twitter that Mr Morrison was "no longer fit to hold the high office of Prime Minister".
For God’s sake! On a day we have catastrophic fire conditions, in the midst of a genuine national crisis, Morrison, the marketing guy, does what? He releases a Liberal Party ad! He is no longer fit to hold the high office of prime minister. https://t.co/1OZqEZalOa— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) January 4, 2020