Australian Bushfires: Is the government doing enough?

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Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison has cut short his holiday to Hawaii amid growing criticism of his leadership during a bushfire crisis ravaging huge areas of the country.

Since September, blazes in eastern Australia have killed 24 people, destroyed more than 2500 homes and blanketed towns and cities including Sydney in smoke. A month or so ago, two volunteer firefighters heading to a blaze in Sydney's south-west also died when their fire engine was hit by a tree. New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, has declared a state of emergency for a second time in two months. The country is also facing a historic heatwave - the national average temperature broke the previous records on two consecutive days this week. As the crisis rolls on, many Australians have accused the prime minister of failing to provide reassurances or support to fire-hit communities. Mr Morrison and his government have also faced a mounting backlash over their climate policies.

How has the government responded to the fires?

Mr Morrison has called the fires a "national disaster", but he has often been accused of downplaying the severity of the crisis. He has readily offered "thoughts and prayers" to victims, toured fire zones and praised crews - most of whom are trained but unpaid volunteers. Mr Morrison rejected calls for greater funding of firefighters, saying existing resources were sufficient and that volunteers "want to be there". He later pledged an additional A$11m (£5.7m; $7.5m) towards aerial firefighting. Much criticism has focused on the government's support for coal-fired power plants. Several protests have been held, including thousands of people coming onto the streets in Sydney, where the air quality has been pushed to hazardous levels. One woman left the remains of her home, destroyed by a bushfire, outside parliament in Canberra. On them she had written: "Morrison, your climate crisis destroyed my home." Their views are not shared by all, however. Others have placed the blame for the fires on a severe drought, the sheer amount of dry land there is to burn, and what they view as natural weather cycles.

Why was Morrison's holiday problematic?

Mr Morrison's decision to go on holiday with his family had not been publicly announced, but his office said the opposition leader Anthony Albanese had been told. In the media and on social media, suggestions that he should not be "missing in action" at a time of crisis escalated, particularly as he had once been critical of a fire commissioner for doing the same. Phrases such as #WhereisScoMo, and #FireMorrison have been trending online.

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