“The captain goes down with the ship” is a maritime tradition that a sea captain holds ultimate responsibility for both his ship and everyone embarked on it, and that in an emergency, he will either save them or die trying.
As hard as the images are to see on television, the effects of tragedy can be much more difficult when viewed up close. Knowing people in Australia can turn the abstract image on a television screen into worry and sadness about people we know and love. Empathy is unavoidable when we know the names and families of those who are in the middle of such horrendous situations.
In these circumstances we naturally turn to leaders as we try to come to grips with events that caused such disasters and try to understand what is being done to help those who are most severely affected. Starting with the emergency response, the collective expressions of grief,the investigation of how and why something happened, to the steps taken to prevent a similar situation happening in the future, leadership is critical to recovering from the trauma. Sometimes leaders are captured on camera, sometimes they are invisible, but they are there nonetheless.
Sadly this does not always fall true for many nations but what comes as a surprise is as fires rage across Australia, the nation sees its leader as missing in action.
In the minds of a lot of people, this week, and weeks before, have been filled with many tragedies – homes and property lost, people hurt or killed by fires, hectares of farmland and bush burnt, firefighters exhausted, and wildlife injured or wiped out. A state of emergency was declared for a whole week. Did the PM not hear of these horrendous events? Did those advising him not dare suggest that he stay?
It has taken the tragic deaths of two volunteer firefighters to get the PM back from his holiday (”Two leadership blunders in the otherwise trivial affair of the PM’s holiday”, smh.com.au, December 20).
“Sure, everyone needs a holiday, but true leadership – especially of a country – requires the leader’s presence, the sharing and understanding of the pain and suffering experienced by those affected and timely, and decisive action. Only when that job is done, and the immediate crisis is over, might you then consider taking leave overseas.” Very rightly said by Lyn Fletcher, Eastwood.
“If Prime Minister Scott Morrison really does believe that a link exists between climate change and the unprecedented severity of this season’s bushfires, he would never have bunked off on an overseas holiday, leaving three climate-science sceptics in charge of the national crisis. Nice.” – Janette Hvistendahl, Currumbin Waters
“The PM has it wrong on two counts. He fails to understand the “tragedy of the commons”: where individuals justify their small impacts on a shared but limited resource while ignoring their cumulative impacts and the inevitable disaster that will follow. He fails to acknowledge that the longer we take to transition to a low carbon future, the greater the cost will be: socially, environmentally and economically. Either the PM changes or we have to change PMs.” – Michael Tierney, Manly Vale
“Dear PM, I don’t need you holding a hose, wearing a yellow jacket or rescuing a koala. I just want you to understand the mood of the people, to care and to realise this is upsetting many of us. If another new normal is a PM running away from tragedy and ignoring the obvious, then no God will be able to help us.” – Srdan Knežević, South Hurstville
Morrison is a politician who likes to rumble, so it is unsurprising when the rumble returns to his doorstep. His once gratuitous commentary about Nixon’s poor judgment in the middle of a natural disaster to score a cheap point on the Bad Show, has come back to bite him on the backside.
Morrison’s ill-judged holiday has become a thing, a totem, a social media event. It somehow epitomises everything that’s wrong with this leader. As well as failing to show up at a critical time, leaving the running of the country to Michael McCormack, who struggles to run his own mulish political party, let alone anything else, Morrison is a hypocrite because he once blasted Christine Nixon for eating dinner during a bushfire. How the tables have turned!