Scott Morrison’s flood response mess shows people must be the priority

Photo by Bradley Richardson/Australian Defence Force/AFP/Getty: Floods have destroyed homes

Contributed by Adam Carlton

Something is terribly wrong when Australia’s federal effectively ignores a national emergency until the tide of public opinion forces a response. This is exactly what has happened over the devastating floods that have hit Queensland and New South Wales.  It took nine days for Morrison to declare the situation a national emergency

Scott Morrison is taking a drubbing over it. People are reminded of a similar response to the Black Summer bushfires. The building anger is not just over the long lag time for a response. Communities are livid over the inadequacy of the response now that there is some movement.

Photo Dave Hunt/AP: An uncomfortable Scott Morrison finally visits Lismore

Victims of the floods were left to suffer with an inadequate rescue effort when the waters were rising. Now there is there is only patchy help with the clean-up and coping with the economic burden faced by households and communities.

Flood victims have been denied disaster payments. In many of the affected areas. It looks like the federal government is playing favourites. People need housing, food, and money to get by in the coming days. Help should be adequate and unconditional.

A decent response is inseparable from an adequate response to climate warming based on getting Australia off the fossil fuel treadmill and a land management system that takes this into account and protects against the new challenges. The Morrison government has been weak on this score, and shoes little sign of shifting.

Repeated failure to respond to a national emergency says a lot about the state of national priorities. The wellbeing of Australians ranks below the government’s obsessions with neoliberal economics, international posturing, and self-interest. But more than anything, it shows how detached from the lives of ordinary citizens those sitting on the government’s benches have become.   

This disassociation and lack of regard for fellow Australians is not only repugnant, but also a serious threat to democratic rights. Government without compassion is government heading towards autocracy and doesn’t give a fig about basic rights.

Scott Morrison is looking bad yet again, and this is in the lead up to an election. The chances of his fall have been raised a notch. The only thing still saving him is the lacklustre performance of the opposition. This may not be enough.

Australia must look past the election. Climate warming is ensuring that natural disasters will be more frequent and intense. This means that Australia must be much better prepared. A proper quick and adequate response plan is called for.

This means committing sufficient resources. It’s not that this is impossible. But it does call for putting the wellbeing of Australians above the government’s other priorities.

Being effective means not merely a top-down approach. Building community participation into the plan is the way to do it. This is not the Scott Morrison style. So, who is going to provide some leadership in this?

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