SYDNEY (Reuters) – Calls for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to resign have littered social media platforms after it was revealed he was holidaying in Hawaii while the country battled a bushfire emergency and his return has failed to douse the criticism.
Voters have taken to social media calling for leadership at a time of crisis, and along with some of the country’s political editors, have criticized Morrison’s refusal to take tougher action on climate change.
Similar to the criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump by American comedians, Morrison has been ridiculed on social media, portrayed as a deformed creature sitting in a burned out forest on Christmas Day patting a lump of coal he calls “precious” to a flying superhero called “Bullshit Man”.
On Twitter on Tuesday, #NotMyPrimeMinister, #MorrisonMustGo and #ScoMoResign were the top trending topics in Australia after a viral video showed a volunteer firefighter, Jacqui, shaking hands with Morrison as she said “not my prime minister”.
“Jacquie is all of us,” Twitter user Yabba said. Another user @bugwannostra tweeted “she’s only saying what more than 12 million think…”
The tweet prompted Morrison to issue a clarification on Tuesday. “Indeed, as Jacqui joked with me yesterday, I’m not her PM, because she’s British, Boris Johnson is,” he tweeted.
Devastating bushfires have burned more than 4 million hectares (9.88 million acres) of land across five states and killed nine people since September.
Uncontrolled fires are still burning in South Australia, after ripping through the state’s prominent wine region, and around the country’s largest city Sydney.
Hazardous smoke blanketed Sydney for days this month, heightening public anger and raising political pressure on the government to do more to battle climate change.
When it was revealed Morrison and his family had slipped away to Hawaii for a holiday voters became angry.
On his return Morrison further inflamed his political critics by saying there would be no change to climate policy and denied suggestions of a split within his government after his deputy agreed more action was needed.
He also ruled out holding a summit with the nation’s fire chiefs and compensation for thousands of volunteer firefighters who have battled blazes for months.
A series of photo opportunities of Morrison with firefighters and animals affected by the fires was ridiculed on social media on Tuesday.
Morrison stunned the nation in May by winning an election, securing a parliamentary majority, but his political capital six months later is now being questioned.
“He has lost any personal link to that deep, crucial, reservoir of gravitas we confer, automatically, on our PMs simply because of their position,” The Canberra Times newspaper columnist Nicholas Stuart wrote on Tuesday.
But some analysts say it is too early to write Morrison’s political epitaph, but concede Australia’s summer bushfires may eventually see a change in climate policy.
In Australia, the world’s largest exporter of coal, climate and energy policy have infused politics for a decade, helping to bring down both liberal and conservative lawmakers.
Australia is one of the world’s largest carbon emitters per capita due to coal-fired power plants. It has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 26% from 2005 levels by 2030, but critics say Morrison is paying lip service to the commitment.
“These bushfires could potentially lead to a shift in public opinion and public concern on climate change that we have not seen in Australia so far,” said Haydon Manning, professor at the college of business, government and law at Flinders University.
Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Michael Perry