Scott Morrison Once Scolded Ex-Police Chief For Going Out To Dinner During Bushfire Crisis
As thousands of Australians tweet at the prime minister to ask #WhereTheBloodyHellAreYou? footage of Scott Morrison scolding a former police commissioner for having dinner during a bushfire crisis has come back to haunt him.
In February 2009 one of Australia's worst bushfire disasters swept through Victoria.
The Black Saturday fires claimed the lives of 173 people and injured hundreds more. More than 2000 homes were destroyed in the disaster.
It later surfaced that the state's then police commissioner left work at 6pm on Black Saturday after being told lives could be lost in the fires.
Christine Nixon instead went to a hotel dinner with friends, a decision that was likened at the time to Roman emperor Nero enjoying a meal as the state burned.
It was also claimed Nixon went to the hairdresser and met with her biographer during the fire crisis.
Nixon maintained she had her phone with her and was able to be contacted at all times.
In April 2010, as the spotlight placed heavy criticism on Nixon's response to Black Saturday, Liberal MP Scott Morrison participated in an ABC Q&A discussion panel.
In archive footage dug up by Network 10's Political Editor Peter van Onselen, Morrison condemned Nixon when he was asked about Black Saturday on the programme.
At the time he said:
She’s clearly made a bad judgment call. That happens to people from time to time, but this was a very serious issue.
“I think there are very serious concerns in the community about exercising judgment, and it’s incumbent on all of us in public life to make decisions following that in the best interests of the ongoing nature of the program.”
Ten years later Morrison is facing similar criticism for taking a holiday as parts of Australia battle an unrelenting bushfire emergency.
Morrison is on a planned break with his family ahead of diplomatic trips to India and Japan next month, Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed on Tuesday as she paid respects in New Zealand following the White Island volcano tragedy.
The PM's office remains tight-lipped on his family's whereabouts.
Morrison's absence has spawned more than 20,000 tweets under the hashtag #WhereTheBloodyHellAreYou and 11,000 under #FireMorrison.
More criticism of the PM's decision to take a vacation during the fires can be found under #NotMyPM and #WheresScotty on Twitter.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has confirmed he is acting as prime minister until Morrison returns.
He has spent his time visiting the Rex Airlines pilot academy in Wagga Wagga and attending a school presentation at Parkes High School.
Here's McCormack's tweets since he has been in the acting role:
In an opinion piece for 10 daily, one of Australia's longest-serving politicians Christopher Pyne wrote that the country had improved its response to bushfires.
"As a South Australian who lived through the Ash Wednesday Bushfire in 1983 which claimed the lives of more than seventy people across South Australia and Victoria, I marvel at how much better we are today at fighting bushfires than we were many years ago," the former member for Sturt and federal defence minister wrote.
Pyne wrote that he felt the criticism of the PM was unfair.
"Unfortunately, the outrage brigade has been out in full force this week accusing Prime Minister Scott Morrison of turning a hard face to the victims of the bushfires by choosing to holiday overseas this week rather than staying in Australia while the bushfires rage," he wrote.
It’s an unfair criticism. I have seen the Prime Minister on the nightly news countless times in the last few weeks talking about the bushfires.
"He has acknowledged their devastation and overseen the appropriate response that you would expect from the Australian government to support those affected."
Pyne added that state and territory governments were responsible as the first responders to bushfires.
"The prime minister has gone on holiday. He deserves it. He’s had a big year. Everyone needs a break if they are going to perform at their best."
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese, who was in Hobart on Wednesday to speak about youth employment and training programs, defended Morrison's decision to take a holiday.
"People are entitled to have leave ... that's a matter for him when he takes it," he said.