Jan 5, 2020

Australian PM defends his response to fires

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits a wildflower farm in an area devastated by bushfires in Sarsfield, Victoria, on Friday. Photo: James Ross/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who's faced widespread criticism for his leadership over the country's deadly wildfires, was forced to defend himself again Sunday morning local time.

Details: He's been criticized since last month, when he was on vacation in Hawaii during the bushfire crisis, for not responding quickly enough to the situation and for his stance on climate change. In the past few days, he's faced an angry crowd of fire victims and been accused of blindsiding a state fire chief on the deployment of 3,000 Defense Force Reservists to help fight the blazes.

Driving the news: New South Wales Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told 9 News he was "disappointed" and "frustrated" to learn via media reports of the troop deployment announced by Morrison.

What he's saying: Morrison said during a news conference a "breakdown in communications" was to blame for Fitzsimmons not being told.

  • "There has been a lot of blame being thrown around," Morrison said. "And now is the time to focus on the response that is being made. ... Blame doesn’t help anybody at this time and over-analysis of these things is not a productive exercise."
  • Morrison also said there's "no dispute" about the issue of climate change globally "and its effect on global weather patterns and that includes how it impacts in Australia."
"I have to correct the record here. I have seen a number of people suggest that somehow the government does not make this connection. The government has always made this connection and that has never been in dispute."

Go deeper: Australia's deadly fires: What you need to know

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Thousands protest for climate action in Australia as fires ravage continent

Participants hold placards as they take part in a demonstration demanding the government take immediate action against climate change in Sydney on Jan. 10. Photo: Mohammad Farooq/Getty Images

Thousands of protesters took to the streets across Australia on Friday, calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to resign for what they call inaction on climate change and an inadequate response to the bush fire crisis that has scorched the continent, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Morrison's stance on climate-related issues has come under scrutiny throughout the deadly wildfire season. In particular, his "reputation as a coal advocate has not helped as he has struggled to project empathy for victims of the fires," the Post writes.

Go deeperArrowJan 10, 2020

Australia's deadly fires: What you need to know

The Australian flag flies under red skies from fires on Jan. 4 in Bruthen, Victoria. Photos: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

The Orroral Valley fire has burned through nearly 25% of the district that's home to Australia's capital, News.com.au reports, after ACT Emergency Controller Georgeina Whelan said the fire was rapidly growing into the south east on Saturday.

The latest: The Orroral fire grew from 81,544 acres to at least 129,073 acres on Saturday, based on Whelan's initial statement, and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr's following estimate. Whelan said the Orroral fire is expected to move "well into" New South Wales, which creates potential for it to reach and merge with other bushfires in the area.

Australia fires: 3 U.S. firefighters killed in NSW air tanker crash

People embrace at Numeralla Rural Fire Brigade near the scene of a water tanker plane crash near Cooma in southern New South Wales, Australia, on Thursday. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty Images

Three U.S. firefighters have died after a New South Wales Rural Fire Service air tanker crashed while fighting bushfires in the Australian state's Snowy Mountains, authorities confirmed at a news conference Thursday.

Details: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, operated by the Canadian company Coulson Aviation, crashed near Cooma in the southern part of the state. NSW RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said, "Initial reports are there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground."

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 23, 2020