Bush fires scorching Australia threaten PM Scott Morrison political survival

Pablo Tucker
January 15, 2020

After weeks of criticism over the handling of the bushfires scorching Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday he will propose a national review into the response to the disaster, as the fires claimed another firefighter's life.

Newspoll showed that Morrison's approval rating dropped 8 points to the lowest level since he assumed the leadership of the Liberal Party in August 2018.

"If this BOM (Bureau of Metereology) rainfall forecast comes to fruition then this will be all of our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation presents rolled into one".

The fires, which have ravaged Australia for months, have spread quickly and overwhelmed efforts to contain them.

Also Sunday, an Australian firefighter has become the latest victim of the months-long bushfire crisis, with authorities saying that the 60-year-old man died fighting a blaze in the country's south.

In response to criticism of his government's actions on climate from former fire chiefs and others, Morrison has said that his government plans to "evolve" its climate policy and set more ambitious targets for reduction of carbon emissions.

The Australian government committed A$50 million to an emergency wildlife recovery program on Monday, calling the bushfires crisis engulfing the country "an ecological disaster" that threatens several species, including koalas and rock wallabies. Authorities said the risk was far from over and more hot weather is expected.

Since October, thousands of Australians have been subjected to repeat evacuations as huge and unpredictable fires scorched more than 11.2 million hectares (27.7 million acres), an area almost half the size of the United Kingdom.

Asked who respondents thought was "preferred prime minister", 39 percent of them said it is Morrison, nine points down.

Campaigners protested in Sydney and Melbourne on Friday as part of a wave of demonstrations planned in major world cities, to spotlight concerns about Australia's climate change policies.

New South Wales (NSW) firefighters said they finally had the upper hand in the fight against the vast Gospers Mountain fire on Sydney's north-western outskirts, which has been burning for nearly three months.

The government has said more mental health support services will be provided to firefighters, emergency personnel, individuals and communities. It forecasts a hit of 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent on gross domestic product.

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