opinion

"Your house is not burning down." While our politicians bicker, bushfire victims are trying to be heard.

NSW is burning. Three lives have been stolen, more than 170 homes have been reduced to ash and rubble, 1 million hectares have been razed, and entire corridors of precious wildlife habitat lost in the fires still burning out of control across the state.

Yet as backyards burn, in Canberra, MPs are spitting blame at each across the aisle.

A Bobin family returns to find their home burnt to the ground. Post continues after. 

Video by Channel 9

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday was forced to chide his colleagues for a series of “provocative” and “unhelpful” comments about the crisis.

His finger-wagging comments came after former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce on Tuesday suggested two people who died in a fire near Glen Innes were “most likely people who voted for the Green party”, sparking outrage across the political spectrum.

Later the same day, Greens senator Jordon Steele-John accused Labor and the Government of being “no better than a bunch of arsonists – borderline arsonists,” for their inaction on climate policy.

The Prime Minister urged calm.

“There have been a lot of provocative comments made over the last few days from all sides of the debate and I find it very unhelpful,” he said.

“The last thing that people in an urgent crisis need at the moment is hearing politicians shout at each other.”

barnaby-joyce
Nationals backbencher, Barnaby Joyce. Image: Getty.
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That much is true, Mr Prime Minister. The ones we ought to be listening to right now aren't peacocking around the halls on Capital Hill.

It's the ones sifting through the remains of their family homes, looking for surviving possessions they can pin their memories to. The ones washing the soot from their eyes, after a sleepless night defending their property. The ones huddled in evacuation centres, clinging to a duffle bag stuffed with medication, a single change of clothes and family photo albums.

The ones like Aaron Crowe and Fiona Lee from the tiny community of Warrawillah on the NSW mid-north coast.

"In this bucket is my house."

The couple, who have a three-year-old daughter, stood outside NSW Parliament House in Sydney this week, joining a rally of people demanding improvements to firefighting resources and protesting legislation relating to mining approvals and greenhouse emissions.

They carried with them a bin full of what was left of their home, which had been destroyed by fire on Friday. Aaron tipped the ashes onto the pavement.

"In this bucket is my house," he told the crowd.

"We had ample time to prepare and [politicians are] talking about hopes and dreams, thoughts and prayers, miracles and heroes. It's not realistic."

"Your house is not burning."

Their frustration is being echoed by many New South Welshman currently sitting beneath smoke-choked sky.

In Nimbin, Ginger O'Brien confronted Labor leader Anthony Albanese at a press conference where he insisted it wasn't time to be "politicising" the crisis.

"Shame on you!" she shouted at the politician walked away. When state MP for Lismore, Janelle Saffin, stepped in, Ginger continued.

“Your house is not burning. My house is burning down,” she yelled.

“What are you doing? Nothing. You’re laughing, you’re having a circus, you’re playing with fire!”

Ginger. Image: AAP.
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Even local politicians are doing their best to be heard above the din in Canberra, echoing the Bureau of Metereology's assertion that "climate change is influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions in Australia".

After the deaths of two people in fires in her constituency, Mayor of Glen Innes, Carol Sparks, called on Deputy PM Michael McCormack to refer to scientific evidence after he shouted down links between climate change and the bushfires as "the ravings of some pure enlightened and woke capital city greenies".

"I think that Michael McCormack needs to read the science, and that is what I am going by, is the science," Mayor Sparks said, according to the ABC. "It is not a political thing — it is a scientific fact that we are going through climate change."

And this from MidCoast Mayor Claire Pontin: "They need to get out and have a real look at what's happening to this country," she said.

"We've not had situations like that. Fifty years ago, this would never happen."

Adding, "We don't have capital city greenies around here, we have farmers coming to us and saying, 'look what's happened to my farm, I can't afford to feed the cows anymore because I've been buying feed for the last 18 months.

"It's just ridiculous... It's not going to go away if we bury our heads in the sand."

Nor if those in a position to affect meaningful change are bickering and chalking up each political point they're scoring. It's not enough to ask for silence, Mr Prime Minister; not unless you and all your colleagues — on both sides — use it to listen.

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