Scott Morrison Flags Royal Commission Into Bushfire Crisis, 'Evolution' Of Climate Policies
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has acknowledged a national review into the country's bushfire crisis would need to look at the role of climate change, flagging "evolving" the government's policies on greenhouse gas emissions.
Speaking to Insiders host David Speers on Sunday, Morrison said he will take a proposal to Cabinet to establish a royal commission into the crisis that has so far claimed at least 28 lives and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.
"I think that is what would be necessary, and I will be taking a proposal through Cabinet to that end," Morrison said.
"But it must be done in consultation with the states and territories."
Morrison outlined three main issues a commission would need to address, including greater involvement from the Federal government to step in during natural disasters.
“This has created, I think, an environment where the people for the first time, arguably, have wanted to see a more direct involvement of the Federal Government in responding to these national disasters,” Morrison said.
“That’s relatively new and you could argue it was new and that was not something that was recommended going into this fire season."
But he conceded there is a "very new appetite" for that to occur.
The prime minister also acknowledged the role of climate change in the bushfire crisis, appearing to indicate his government would "evolve" its policies on cutting emissions.
Morrison has faced criticism for lacking ambition on cutting Australia's emissions and many of his coalition colleagues have downplayed the link between climate change and the devastating bushfires.
Australia has pledged to cut emissions by 26 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, under the Paris Agreement.
"It is my intention to meet and beat that target," Morrison said.
"In the years ahead we are going to continue to evolve our policy in this area to reduce emissions even further and we are going to do it without a carbon tax, without putting up electricity prices and without shutting down traditional industries."
Asked whether he was open to moving the existing target, he said: "What I'm saying is we want to reduce emissions and do the best job we possibly can and get better and better and better at it."
Morrison acknowledged some within coalition ranks felt climate change had nothing to do with the bushfires.
But it was the government's "uncontested" advice and position that climate change was impacting on longer, hotter, drier summer seasons.
"That is the position of the government -- let there be no dispute about that," he said.
While Morrison largely defended his government's response to the crisis, and its scale -- including defence deployment and a $2 billion recovery fund -- he admitted he could have personally responded better in some interactions on the ground.
“95 per cent of the responses I’ve had in this case have been very positive and very appreciative but ... these are sensitive, emotional environments. Prime ministers are flesh and blood too in how they engage with these people,” he said.
“When I went there I went there in good faith, with Jenny on occasions, to provide what consolation I could. They’re very strained environments and I think we need to think a little harder about how we do those.
"We’ve had many, I think, very effective visits that have been away from the cameras as well."