Australian PM admits mistakes, wants commission into brushfire response

Photo courtesy of New South Wales Rural Fire Service/Twitter

Jan. 12 (UPI) — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Sunday that he will propose a royal commission into the bushfire crisis affecting the country, admitting things “could have handled on the ground much better.”

Appearing on ABC Australia’s Insiders, Morrison told host David Speers that the inquiry will examine how the government should respond to and offer support those affected by the blazes that have killed more than 20 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.

“I think that is what would be necessary and I will be taking a proposal through the Cabinet to that end,” he said. “But it must be done in consultation with states and territories.”

Morrison added that the fires have pushed constitutional authorities to act “to its very edge,” for the first time placing the federal government in a position where it has a need to take such action.

“This has created, I think, an environment where the people for the first time, I think arguably, have wanted to see a more direct involvement of the Federal Government in responding to these national disasters,” he said.

The prime minister also indicated the fires may lead the government to alter its 2030 emissions reduction target which currently aim to cut emissions to 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels.

“We want to reduce emissions and do the best job we possibly can and get better and better at it,” he said. “I want to do that with a balanced policy, which recognizes Australia’s broader national economic interests and social interest.”

He said Morrison said the fires had made his government “think a little harder” in providing comfort and consolation to the victims.

“These are sensitive environments, they are very emotional environments,” he said. “Prime ministers are flesh and blood too in how they engage with people.”


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