Morrison Touts For Lib Party Donations On Govt’s Bushfire Response Ad



The political crisis engulfing Prime Minister Scott Morrison over his response to Australia’s growing climate emergency has deepened overnight, after he linked a video advertisement promoting the government’s response to the disaster to a Liberal Party website which touted for donations.

But the donations weren’t to assist firefighters, or even the government. It touted instead for donations to the Liberal Party of Australia.

Early this morning, the donation link had been removed.

The latest furore erupted on the Prime Minister’s personal Facebook page late last night, after he shared a video which has been widely condemned as a “taxpayer-funded advertisement” for his government.

The ad shows Morrison touring the South Coast of NSW, ravaged by fire earlier in the week where, ironically, he was abused by multiple residents for inaction, and where video of him forcing a young woman to shake his hand went viral.

Stepping up bushfire response

We’re putting more Defence Force boots on the ground, more planes in the sky, more ships to sea, and more trucks to roll in to support the bushfire fighting effort and recovery as part of our co-ordinated response to these terrible bushfires.

Posted by Scott Morrison (ScoMo) on Friday, January 3, 2020

As thousands of angry social media users began weighing in, Morrison took to responding personally, although he avoided addressing criticisms directly and instead posted a series of what appeared to be pre-prepared spin on the government response, including an explanation of why a taxpayer-funded advertisement would include an ‘Authorised by S Morrison’ tag at the end.

“It is a legal requirement in Australia to include an authorisation on all video messages used on social media by Australian MPs,” Morrison replied. “The video message simply communicates the Government’s policy decisions and the actions the Government is undertaking to the public. The same practice is rightly employed by the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party. This is required and standard practice in Australia.”

Several times, Morrison posted links to a page titled ‘Bushfire Relief and Recovery’, where people could “find out more about how the Federal Government is doing everything possible to assist the states to fight fires, protect lives, and ensure communities are getting the support they need”.

The link takes readers to the Liberal Party’s official website, which featured a large green ‘donate’ button prominently at the top of the page.

But this morning, the link takes readers to a reworked version of the site, one version of which also includes a ‘Follow’ link at the top, where readers can sign up for Facebook notifications on posts from Morrison’s personal page.

The advertisement quickly attracted criticism from around the nation, and the world. Prominent British journalist Piers Morgan, who edited News of the World when it was caught for hacking the phone of murdered child.

Morgan, who has more than 7 million followers on Twitter, wrote:

It’s just the latest political disaster to engulf Morrison, who has botched just about every aspect of his response to the climate crisis.

After secretly leaving the country for a Hawaiian holiday in early December as the fires gathered pace, then lying to media about his whereabouts, Morrison remained missing in action for four days. He only resurfaced and promised to return to Australia the morning after two firefighters were killed.

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Before leaving for Hawaii, Morrison had already sparked outrage after suggesting that although firefighters were exhausted, they ‘wanted to be out fighting fires’.

During Morrison’s absence, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack conceded to media the federal government “had to do more” to tackle climate change. Morrison hosed down those suggestions at his first press conference, claiming the government’s policy was adequate (it’s been widely condemned by scientists and governments around the world).

Morrison also shot down suggestions that volunteer firefighters should be compensated for their time away from work, only to announce a payment scheme a few days later. But Morrison only offered it to NSW, which is also run by a Liberal Government, ignoring firefighters from around the country who had been battling fires for months, in particular Victorian firefighters who volunteer under a Labor government.

As the disaster gathered pace, with more than 10 million acres already consumed by fire, Morrison continued to refuse to acknowledge the role of climate change in the disaster, suggesting that Australia has always suffered bushfires.

Then New Years Eve came, and as NSW and Victorian fire officials warned of catastrophic conditions, and the NSW Rural Fire Service called on tourists in a huge stretch of the south east coastline to evacuate, Morrison hosted an exclusive dinner party at his Kirribilli mansion in Sydney to celebrate the upcoming test match between Australia and New Zealand.

Morrison drew even more criticism for posing for an awkward photograph with Australian cricketers, while telling media the bushfire crisis would “happen against the backdrop of this test match”.

Finally, this week, Morrison made his way out to an actual fire ground, or at least what was left of it. It was arguably his biggest public relations disaster yet. While touring the devastated town of Cobargo on the South Coast of NSW, where several people died, Morrison was caught on camera forcing a young woman to shake his hand, after she refused until he committed to providing more resources.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's visit to Cobargo, on the NSW South Coas

"I'll only shake your hand if you give more funding to our RFS."Prime Minister Scott Morrison was confronted with the angry residents of Cobargo on the NSW South Coast when he visited yesterday.

Posted by ABC Sydney on Thursday, January 2, 2020

Angry Cobargo residents turned on the Prime Minister, telling him to “fuck off back to Kirribilli”.

A short time later, a local firefighter also refused to shake Morrison’s hand, before news footage captured Morrison talking to a local fire official: “Apologise to that fella for me, I’m sure he was just tired.”

The fire official replied, “No, he lost his house.”

Morrison’s advertising blow-up is likely to also gather pace this morning, as Australians wake to news that the climate crisis is worsening, with hundreds of fires still burning, scorching an area of land larger than Belgium. Catastrophic conditions predicted for parts of the country remain in place, particularly in NSW.

Morrison has still yet to acknowledge the role of climate change in the bushfires. Meanwhile, Canberra yesterday reached a record 42.4 degrees, and the suburb of Penrith in Western Sydney hit 48.9 degrees, breaking an 80-year-old temperature record for the Greater Sydney basin.

The Penrith reading was also recorded as the hottest recorded temperature anywhere on earth for January 4.

In fact the top 10 hottest places recorded in the world yesterday were all in Australia, and all over 46 degrees Celsius.

1 Penrith (Australia) 48.9° C
2 Badgery’s Creek Airport (Australia) 47.6° C
3 Narrandera Airport (Australia) 47.4° C
4 Richmond Amo Aws (Australia) 47.4° C
5 Griffith Airport (Australia) 47.2° C
6 Homebush (Australia) 47.1° C
7 Bankstown Airport Aws (Australia) 47° C
8 Horsley Equestrian Centre (Australia) 47° C
9 Condobolin Airport Aws (Australia) 46.8° C
10 Temora Airport (Australia) 46.4° C

The climate crisis shows no sign of slowing, but then neither does the political one.

Also overnight, it emerged a panicked Prime Minister’s office had begun backgrounding journalists against the NSW Liberal Government in an effort to reduce the heat on Scott Morrison, despite both governments belonging to the same party. You can read that story here.

On a more positive note, an Aboriginal family who made international headlines last month after a video of their neighbours trying unsuccessfully to rip down their Aboriginal flag went viral (and entered the phrase ‘Too strong for you Karen’ into the Australian urban dictionary) , have offered up their family home for victims of the ongoing bushfire crisis.

You can read that story here.

And you can receive free email updates of this story, and others as they develop, by clicking here.

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Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. Chris has won a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards for his reporting. He lives in Brisbane and splits his time between Stradbroke Island, where New Matilda is based, and the mainland.