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Scott Morrison faces 'moment of truth' as demands intensify for a bushfire royal commission and emergency relief

Jack Derwin
  • Demands are growing for a greater response to the bushfires as firefighters struggle to keep multiple blazes across the country under control.
  • Greens leader Richard Di Natale has said it's now a "moment of truth" for the Prime Minister, who has been under intense scrutiny since holidaying in Hawaii while parts of the country burned.
  • Di Natale announced that if the government didn't, it would push for the bushfire inquiry, while Labor Leader Anthony Albanese insisted the PM convene an emergency meeting with state and territory leaders immediately to deal with the crisis.
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The Australian government is facing intense pressure over its response to the bushfires.

With the sky turning blood red this week, and the bushfire crisis deepening, demands are intensifying for immediate action.

“This is a moment of truth for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is failing in his basic duty to keep our citizens safe from harm. His totally inadequate response to these fires and his obstinate refusal to accept what we have known for decades: that burning climate changing fossil fuels would lead to more frequent and intense bushfires is putting the lives of Australians at risk," Greens Leader Richard Di Natale said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

“What is absolutely crystal clear is that we are in an emergency and it’s time that the Prime Minister accepted that fact."

The Greens are demanding the government announce a broad Royal Commission, investigating everything "from land management and national disaster responses to climate change and mitigation".

"If [Morrison] refuses to do so, we will be moving for a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry with Royal Commision-like powers as soon as Parliament returns," Di Natale said.

Whether those calls are heard remains to be seen with the Federal Opposition looking unlikely to support the motion. Instead Labor Leader Anthony Albanese is calling for an emergency meeting between national, state and territory leaders to be called to mount immediate action.

"This fire does not respect state boundaries. And I again say this is a national issue. This is a national emergency. And it requires a national response from the Government," he told media on Tuesday.

The government had planned such a meeting in March but Albanese is insisting it be brought forward to deal with the crisis now, slamming the government for "complacency".

Morrison for his part has not yet been drawn on either proposal. Instead, after sustained calls for it, he introduced a compensation scheme late last tear that will see eligible volunteer firefighters be given up to $300 a day and up to $6000 in total for their work.

"This is not about paying volunteers. It is about sustaining our volunteer efforts by protecting them from financial loss," he said.

With the first payments expected to be made by the end of January, only those who normally work for small and medium businesses will be covered by the scheme. The PM said he simply "expects" larger companies to provide 20 days of paid leave instead out of their own pockets.

That could mean those firefighters are left out of pocket altogether by both their employer and their government.