Mon, Jan 13, 2020 – 8:44 AM
[SYDNEY] Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval ratings have nosedived as he faces widespread anger over his handling of the deadly bushfire crisis, according to a poll released on Monday.
The Newspoll survey showed 59 per cent of Australian voters are dissatisfied with the conservative leader’s performance overall, and only 37 per cent were satisfied, an abrupt reversal since his shock election win last May.
Mr Morrison has been criticised heavily for his response to the months-long crisis – which included going on holiday to Hawaii, making a series of gaffes and misleading statements about his government’s actions, and forcing angry victims to shake his hand.
“The damage on Morrison’s personal ratings amounts to an eight-point drop on approval to 37 per cent and an eleven point rise on disapproval to 59 per cent,” wrote poll commentator William Bowe.
Mr Morrison began the crisis insisting local authorities had enough resources to handle the fires and exhausted volunteers firefighters “want to be there”.
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He also repeatedly stated that Australia was doing more than enough to meet its emission reduction targets, prompting a series of large-scale street protests.
Seeing a backlash, Mr Morrison has since deployed the military, launched the largest peacetime call up of reserves, pledged billions of dollars in aid, increased payments to firefighters, and suggested more work may need to be done on emissions.
The fires have killed at least 27 people, burned an area the size of South Korea, and shrouded Sydney in toxic smoke for weeks on end.
Mr Morrison on Sunday acknowledged a groundswell of anger about the climate-fuelled fires.
The prime minister – a staunch supporter of fossil fuel industries – said emissions targets would “evolve” but ruled out curbing Australia’s vast exports of coal.
“In the years ahead, we are going to continue to evolve our policy in this area to reduce emissions even further and we are going to do it without a carbon tax, without putting up electricity prices and without shutting down traditional industries,” he told public broadcaster ABC.
The polls also showed Mr Morrison’s conservative coalition had lost the lead over the opposition Labor party, which now leads the preferred vote 51-49.
The next general election is expected in or before 2022.