It really is hard to keep up with a prime minister who declares one minute disaster management is predominantly a state responsibility, and he won’t be running over the top of state premiers, and then, seemingly, five minutes later, calls out the ADF reserve, deploys military assets and procures more water bombers than anyone asked for.
This kind of plot twist is dizzying stuff in normal conditions, let alone in the middle of a disaster, when the prime ministerial norm is generally one of steadiness and consistency.
Perhaps it was Scott Morrison’s own demonstrable lack of clarity about what his government was, or was not, doing, in response to Australia’s catastrophic summer of bushfires that prompted his communications team to pump out a promotional video – on one of the most perilous days of the disaster – outlining today’s initiatives.
Perhaps the boss needed to be reminded, visually, with a soothing backing track called Live Tropical Beat, royalty free, complete with clicking fingers, or a simulation of clicking fingers, about what he’d said five minutes ago.
Perhaps that explains it.
A visual aid to explain what the position was this particular minute.
Because the alternative explanation is Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, just issued a political ad – a little bit of humblebrag, a little moment of self-love, a short hymn of self-satisfaction – in the middle of the worst bushfire event we’ve seen in our fire-prone continent.
And that behaviour seems … let me find the word … wrong.
Yes, wrong is the word.
Objectionable works, because sensible prime ministers know that in times of national emergency, you show. You don’t tell, at least not with a crude bit of agitprop on the Liberal party website and pumped out on platforms.
You show. Show up, first of all, and you show leadership by actually leading. Not by telling people you are leading. Otherwise you are not a leader. You are an internet meme.
Dear Mr Morrison. You are the prime minister, not the Liberal party spruiker. We really do need you to understand that difference.
Now of course governments need to tell citizens what they are doing, and perhaps the argument for doing this increases when there has been a rapid recalibration from the top like the one we’ve seen over the past week or so.
But Tropical Beats was not an essential communication. Not on Saturday. I doubt it was an essential communication on any day quite frankly, but certainly not on Saturday.
On Saturday, people in extremis, in fire zones, needed to know where to be or where not to be. They needed to know where exactly the danger was and how to avoid it.
They did not need a prime minister in their face on social platforms shouting “I have not screwed this up. I am taking command of this situation. I have All The Things and I’m Deploying Them.”
Not on a day where authorities were dealing with life and death.
Not on that day.
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