PM: ‘Climate change contributed to fires’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has conceded climate change was a contributing factor to the bushfires that have plagued the nation for months.
"We also know that there are many contributing factors that relate to these fires. The drought is obviously one, and the dryness of the bush is the biggest factor," Mr Morrison said this morning.
"And we all know … that climate change, along with many other factors, contribute to what is occurring today."
But the Prime Minister also urged "calm" on the issue, stating that "no one can say (that) those programs, of themselves, are in any way directly linked to any fire event".
"I know, because I'm a Sydneysider, how unusual it is to see haze across my city. And I know how distressing this has been, particularly for young people, who wouldn't have seen that before … that's why it's important to have a sense of calm about these matters and calm on the basis of information."
He added: "But let me be clear about this - climate change is a global challenge. Australia is playing our role as part of this global challenge. In fact, I can tell you that emissions from Australia are lower today than at any other time than before we came to government.
"They're around almost on average 50 million tons lower per year now than they were under the term of the previous government. And we'll continue to meet our commitments when it comes to Kyoto."
Responding to NSW Liberal MP Matt Kean's public call yesterday for practical action on climate change, Mr Morrison said: "I know that all our government is focused on taking action on climate change, because we should be, and we are.
"I think scientists have observed, and we should recognise, that climate change is a global issue.
"Australia 1.3 per cent of global emissions and in New South Wales I think it's less than 0.5 per cent of emissions, and so any suggestion that any actions of any state or any nation with a contribution to global emissions of that order is directly linked to any weather event, whether here in Australia or anywhere else in the world, is just simply not true."
A recent global index ranked the Australian government last in the world on climate policy, but Mr Morrison said he "completely rejects" that report.
Asked to elaborate, he said, "Because I don't think it's credible" before moving on to another question.
Earlier today the Morrison government announced it would invest a further $11 million into the country's aerial firefighting capabilities, after coming under immense pressure over the blazes.
Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said it would allow annual lease periods of firefighting aircraft to be extended.
It would also ensure the right mix and type of aircraft were available to protect communities over summer, Mr Littleproud said.
We recognise the vital role that aerial firefighting plays in protecting communities, essential infrastructure and environmental values, as well as supporting firefighters on the ground," he said in a statement on Thursday.
"Once again, we owe a debt of gratitude to our career and volunteer emergency services who are out there protecting our communities in the face of very difficult conditions."
It comes after former fire and emergency leaders called on the PM to make more water bombers available.
Mr Morrison said he wanted to ensure firefighters had the aerial support they needed and have asked for.
"Each bushfire season we take the advice of the states and experts about what we can do to keep Australians safe," he said.
"As we've said all along, my government stands ready to deliver whatever further assistance is asked of us by the states as they battle these devastating fires."
Thousands of people rallied in Sydney's CBD last night, slamming the NSW and federal governments for their response to the bushfires and smoke.
Firefighters union representative Leighton Dury told the crowd that as a firey for 20 years, he was qualified to say these are "the worst fires we have had in decades".
"Our members are saving lives, property, wildlife, stock and pets. Our members are spread thing. They are also responding to their regular work. It is this Government, the NSW Government, who have failed," he said.
"We have got no water and a state and country that is in drought. We need a government that takes action."
Climate activist Gavin Stanbrook said the people in power were "wedded to digging every ounce of coal out of the grounds".
"What a disgrace!" he said.
"It is the 1 per cent and we need to fight them. What this tells us is that we cannot relyon Scott Morrison in the same way we can't rely on Anthony Albanese.
"We have to rely on ourselves, on protests like this. When we come together and right, we can win."
- with AAP