A Little Rant

When I wrote yesterday’s post on the Ivan Southall book Ash Road, I discovered a draft post that I had never published. It was written in March of this year, just as the tumult of our bushfires was ebbing – at least in the media’s eyes.

I must never have posted it as we were suddenly overtaken by COVID, but, since it is so relevant to the book, and the current situation in California and Oregon, and our imminent bushfire season, I have decided press the publish button.

And just a note. Political fortunes wax and wane as we all know. As fast as our Prime Minister Scott Morrison fell out of favour over the bush-fires, he clawed back brownie points over his handling of Australia’s response to Coronavirus. For a while there, politicians of all persuasions were working together under his leadership.

Okay, so that turned out to be a brief moment in the sun, and they are all back to taking pot-shots at each other. PM Morrison is no longer headlining every news broadcast, although he is still in the mix. We are a couple of years away from our next election, so there is a lot of water to go under the bridge of popularity and polls yet.

Without further ado, here’s where my thoughts lay six months ago . . .


Several things distinguished this year’s bushfires from all the terrifying and devastating ones that have preceded. They started very early in the season, even in September/October (2019) in some places, peaking in December/January (2020); they were widespread, simultaneously; they burnt through areas that do not usually burn; they returned to burn through areas they had just burnt, and they burnt on, and on.

Our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was on (secret) holidays in Hawaii (also secret) when it became clear that the fires would not be contained. That’s okay, he’s entitled to a holiday. But at first he pussy-footed around, and then, when two fire-fighters were killed and the media storm was turning ugly, he spoke from Hawaii to a 2GB radio host and confirmed he was returning. He justified his delay, “I don’t hold a hose, mate, and I don’t sit in a control room,” he said. “But I know that Australians would want me back at this time … of these fatalities. So I’ll happily come back and do that.” That kind of martyred speech is lead-balloon material. Many of us have been recalled from holidays when a work crisis looms, and we are not the national leader.

Our bush firefighters are volunteers. They give up their jobs and businesses to go to the fray. This is bearable for a short time, but this year they were without income for many weeks, even months. Calls were mounting to recompense them. “The volunteer effort is a big part of our natural disaster response and it is a big part of how Australia has always dealt with these issues,” Morrison said, rejecting these calls. “And the fact is these crews, yes, they’re tired, but they also want to be out there defending their communities . . . they WANT to be there.”

These quotes were in the early part of December 2019. The horrific situation continued to escalate from there. Ultimately, the Defence Force – including reserves – even had a role to play. Morrison had no hesitation in cancelling their leave and recalling them to service. By the end of December 2019, he recanted his position on firefighter remuneration and announced a support package – with many caveats attached. I wonder how many actually received any financial support. Yet, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, his Finance Minister Mathias Cormann praised Morrison’s leadership, telling the  international media, that our PM “had led a historically unprecedented national bush fire response effort“.

On 7 February 2020 it was reported that torrential rain across most of south-east Australia had extinguished New South Wales’ fires by a third, from more than 60 down to 42 of extant fires. The emergency focus began to shift towards flooding.

On 31st March, the NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, declared the devastating bushfire season in that state officially ended.

Meanwhile, the corona virus aka COVID-19 had captured all the media attention.

27 thoughts on “A Little Rant

  1. I think you were meant to pause and post this now, as a reminder. We so quickly forget. Some also forget the lesson and forget to learn. Thanks Gwen for a timely reminder


  2. Gwen – the comment made by Don Ostertag regarding your post was a bit shocking to me, maybe disturbing is a better word…. What is he talking about??? I’m within 7 miles of the fires and know people affected – IN THE FOREST. It’s not grassland burning. Oregon is 80% wilderness and 20% population and it’s thick with mountains and trees. Maybe he clumps California, Oregon, and Washington altogether in one bucket. Maybe they have some grass fires which are much easier to get to and extinguish – unlike wilderness forest fires. Has he ever even been to the three states? Minnesota is some distance away – thousands of miles!

    Sorry to add a rant to a rant but heh, the comment was way off base, and the fires have nothing to do with politics. However, Gavin Newsom (governor of California) admitted that forest management is a factor and has been for years – federal or state or both. California is bankrupt and cutting corners in many areas. People are moving away in hoards. Does anyone really deny climate change any more – doubt Trump does either… The older I get, the more aware I become aware of people becoming “stuck” in their ways of thinking and politics is a zinger. That’s one reason I travel to unfamiliar far away areas of the world where I have zero connections. to get a fresh perspective. I never want to be like that. Personally, neither political party in this country excites me – they both suck.


    On Sun, Sep 20, 2020 at 11:28 PM The Reluctant Retiree wrote:

    > Garrulous Gwendoline posted: “When I wrote yesterday’s post on the Ivan > Southall book Ash Road, I discovered a draft post that I had never > published. It was written in March of this year, just as the tumult of our > bushfires was ebbing – at least in the media’s eyes. I must never ha” >

    Liked by 1 person

    • Feel free to rant away. Of course, I can’t speak for what Don had in mind, but I also respect him, as I do you.
      It’s hard to get inspired about political leaders of any persuasion these days, but I firmly believe in the need to vote, and I think you do too, or you wouldn’t have made such an effort when travelling. What will the future hold?

      Liked by 1 person

        • It’s an interesting article which managed to go off topic and link another “cause”. Potentially Rupert Murdoch owns The Washington Post also. Has his trademark pushing of a certain political agenda.
          The core arguments re management of public lands are the same as ours though.
          The link to our bushfires was a puff piece by one of our regular media personalities more usually known for his light-hearted newspaper columns and radio gigs. Covering familiar territory without adding any new perspective.
          Generally speaking, I’m pulling back on reading opinion pieces. But I’m starving in trying to find the factual items! Let alone anything with “real” solutions.
          Long gone are the days when our nightly news simply reported the days events.


          • Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, bought The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million – sometimes my brain doesn’t function with all the info overflow these days… What has made BIG news in the media is that one of the fires in California was started from fireworks (?) during a gender reveal party – poor baby… An aside regarding Bezos and Amazon – with the coronavirus so many people are ordering on Amazon, it’s totally clogged up the USPS (postal service) – not enough hours in the day to deliver the packages, and if they’re too big for the postman’s little vehicle, that presents another issue. I’ve just recently seen people commenting on it in my local neighborhood group blog. One said a letter mailed in June (within US) didn’t arrive until September. USPS employees are exhausted and getting sick and delivering until late in the night. Amazingly, the press has not covered this! Interesting times and thinking for yourself is absolutely essential. I just don’t believe much of anything coming from the media or cable. Seems most people pick the ones that support whichever way they’ve decided to think :o( and never even consider opposing opinions. Oregon is a hotbed of radical political opinion (understatement ha, ha, ha) – thinking of moving, but where???? South Africa would be very difficult. Several friends have moved to Spain – also politically complicated these days. The Canadian border remains closed, probably until the end of the year.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Sigh. One of those opinion pieces. Long on rhetoric and short on solutions. Isn’t it easy to sit on the sidelines and lob in these grenades when you are not the one responsible for managing a COVID outbreak, or having to answer to the death rate. Possibly this is a paid article, so why not compare to decades-long repressive Communist regimes such as Chairman Mao and Poland just to ensure your article is the one that gets picked up?
            Sydney and Melbourne are the main entry points for returning travellers. They are required to go into 14 day hotel quarantine on arrival. In NSW the majority of COVID cases are within this cohort, with occasional flashpoint community transmission, a couple of which stem from hospitals.
            This was also the case for Victoria, however some months ago, for reasons which are under investigation, hotel quarantine protocols were breached, and the infection leaked into the community, at first into densely populated lower socio-economic areas. Initial efforts to contain those specific apartment towers and geographic areas also failed. Cases were increasing exponentially. The Victorian government, under advice from health experts, took the decisive step to put the state into Stage 4 lockdown at the beginning of August, and are now, at the beginning of September, seeing a re-assuring drop in cases – only 12 yesterday for example. Other parts of Victoria have dropped back to Stage 3 and easing, and Melbourne (pop > 5 million) will soon follow suit.
            The author of this article – himself a doctor – does not offer his opinion on what should have been done to contain the virus.
            The Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, has stood up and faced the media and his critics, EVERY DAY since early March. He has consistently called for all Victorians to take precautions and follow the rules for the benefit of all society, and for the protection of the most vulnerable in our society.
            Naturally, we have a cohort who think they are exempt from the rules and that they are a breach of rights that do not even exist in the Australian constitution. They get mixed up with the US, or with Human Rights legislation invoked as a consequence of the Holocaust.
            It’s typical of those who receive all their information by Facebook and social media and only follow those whose opinion re-inforces theirs. They don’t wish to educate themselves to wider ramifications of their actions; or even what the rules actually mean.
            The footage of the woman arrested in her home does appear overkill. But there was much more to it, and the police did have a legal warrant. She wouldn’t stop talking long enough for the police to explain what the warrant was for, and egged her partner to film everything, as, due to her own actions, the situation escalated. She had been mounting a Facebook campaign to have hundreds gather in a public protest against lockdown, and was charged with “incitement”. She later apologised for her “bimbo moment”, justifying her actions by saying, “I’m just a passionate person and I’m sick of the lockdown.”
            Perhaps the author would prefer we follow the model of some other countries who have certainly been effective in “targetting towards protecting(?) those groups vulnerable to the virus”.


          • The RT article seemed waaaaay too much… It’s difficult to believe news coverage these days but thought you might be amused by the article – or not. Have found from travels that you never, ever really know a place until you actually go there and do more than hangout in tourist spots. If I had believed some of the things read, I wouldn’t leave the house. However – maybe the brand of lockdown described in the RT article would well work in Portland :o)… A friend in San Francisco says there were 7 drive-by shootings in my old neighborhood last week and burglaries have increased 75% city-wide. He’s afraid to walk the dog.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Here in the US, the fires out West and the heroes fighting them are getting as much or news coverage as the virus, hurricanes and politics. And tRump, who insists the fault lies in the fact the states do not ‘rake the leaves in the forest’, like other countries do. The vast majority of the fires are in Federal owned land to begin with. Now he is explaining how when trees get old and fall over they lay for while and then explode causing new fires. At least he hasn’t repeated the conspiracy theory they are being set by liberals. The fact of the matter is the fires aren’t burning forests but prairie grass that has dried because of climate change.
    Now I see in our media where there are humpback whales trapped in some arm of the ocean near Australia.
    Stay Safe, Gwen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Luckily I think we have been spared Trump’s educated analysis, or I haven’t been listening.
      It’s pilot whales that are stranded in Tasmania. Several pods of them, numbering around 270, on different sandbanks mostly, and some on the beaches. Rescue efforts are underway – but. It’s always heartbreaking when this happens. Apparently about one-third have already perished, but they’ve managed to get some of the stronger ones into deeper waters. They may have followed fish or foolish adventurers into the shallows.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Clearly remember this! I often watch BBC, Sky News, and Al Jazeera instead of US cable news. They covered it well, and it seemed like (according to the media) Scott Morrison really didn’t want to forego his vacation. The firefighters are so brave and deserve praise! Many are heroes! There are stories of people here in Oregon joining in after their homes were burned to the ground. I thoroughly appreciate your “rant” after posting a similar one a few days ago :o(…

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was curious how we hit on the same theme simultaneously. Apparently there is an upsurge in volunteers in the lead up to this year’s fire season. They will be welcome!
      The images we have been seeing of entire towns disappeared due to the Almeda fire have been devastating.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, what with all the fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes and the coronavirus, this has been a wild year so far, and it’s not over yet. Even here in placid Frankfurt, we had a flooded basement recently after an unusually severe thunderstorm.

    Liked by 1 person

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