- Bushfires have ravaged parts of New South Wales and Queensland in recent weeks.
- Australian politicians’ reaction to the ongoing disaster has been compared by some to the US government’s responses to mass shootings.
- From the offering of “thoughts and prayers” to the refusal to discuss links to risk factors like climate change, Australian politicians appear similar to those on the opposing side of the US conversation on gun control.
- Some Australians have called for the government to act as quickly and strongly as it did following the Port Arthur massacre.
As soon as climate change was mentioned in relation to this year’s bushfires, the political response was blunt.
“Not today. Not today,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told the media when Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked about the relationship.
The response was consistent across the Liberal Party, with Morrison and NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro both making similar statements — that now was definitely not the time to talk about climate change.
Liberal Senator Gerard Rennick went one further, claiming the Bureau of Meteorology is engaged in a conspiracy to rewrite climate records to further its own agenda. Across the narrow political aisle, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said Australia should look at the issue “once we get through this period”.
The stance has drawn a similarly unified counterreaction, and some Australians claimed that local politicians sounded like pro-gun advocates in the US.
“Whenever there is a gun massacre in the USA, politicians asked about gun control laws say ‘Not today. Not today.’ If not now, then when?” City of Sydney councillor and former federal independent MP Kerryn Phelps tweeted.
Whenever there is a gun massacre in the USA, politicians asked about gun control laws say “Not today. Not today.”
If not now, then when? #ClimateChange #bushfires #auspol #nswpol https://t.co/F5AUBXei2n
— Prof Kerryn Phelps AM (@drkerrynphelps) November 10, 2019
Others asked how Australia could move so quickly on gun control after Port Arthur, and yet be paralysed on climate action.
“Imagine if we hadn’t demanded gun control in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre. Why is it not appropriate to demand action on greenhouse gas abatement, in the wake of catastrophic bushfires?” one asked.
Imagine if we hadn’t demanded gun control in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre. Why is it not appropriate to demand action on greenhouse gas abatement, in the wake of catastrophic bushfires? #insiders
— ????▌│█║▌║▌║ (@AnodyneParadigm) November 16, 2019
Australia’s move to ban assault weapons and tighten gun restrictions following Port Arthur had its opponents too. Then Prime Minister John Howard needed to generate a consensus among all states as well as legislate a one-time tax to fund a buyback program once a national agreement was implemented.
With the right leadership, some say, Australia could act on climate just as strongly.
A good government would respond to the #bushfires emergency with commensurate action. John Howard had a gun-control agreement 11 days after the Port Arthur Massacre. Maybe @ScottMorrisonMP could have a national climate and natural disasters agreement? #NSWfires #QLDFires #auspol
— Maxwell James Smith (@MaxwellJSmith) November 12, 2019
The comparison between the two issues is an uncomfortable one, with Australians lamenting America’s inaction on gun control despite repeated mass shootings.
So the world is looking at the ridiculous political discussion Australia is having about bushfires right now with the same degree of incredulity and disbelief we reserve for Americans who claim whenever there is a mass shooting that it has nothing to do with lack of gun control.
— tamsomers (@tls_tam) November 16, 2019
Many praised New Zealand for taking swift action to ban semi-automatic weapons after the Christchurch massacre, instead of just offering platitudes.
How are those "thoughts and prayers" working out for you, America?
Over 30,000 gun deaths a year & frequent mass shootings in the US, and they still can't see what New Zealand saw after a single horrific tragedy. https://t.co/5or3DF6ob2
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) March 21, 2019
It’s now Australian politicians, however, who are offering “thoughts and prayers” rather than firm policies to counteract the severe effects of climate change that present as bushfires.
Fuck people running the “thoughts & prayers not now argument” who abhor it comes to gun control but yep that’s the thing to do for the bushfires let’s not hold anyone to account let’s not ask why Govts refused to meet with the fire chiefs after 23 requests yep thoughts & ????
— Joy Hooker (@JoySC01) November 11, 2019
Many argue that politicians could act to reduce the immediate threat of bushfires, as well as heed scientists’ calls to reduce Australia’s carbon footprint over the long term.
In the words of one US representative: “Your thoughts and prayers aren’t going to stop the next [one]. Only action and leadership will do that.”
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