With dozens of Australia's bushfires still burning, the government faces a surge of anger from thousands of protesters, environment activist and political opposition to the belated containment of the crisis, which has caused huge damage to human life, property, and wildlife for months now.
In response to the severe backlash, the government received over the last three days, Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, announced on Monday, January 13th, A$50 million Australian dollars ($34.56 million US) wildlife protection fund. He said that the government has 'heard the message loud and clear from the Australian people.'
A survey released on January 13th by Newspoll, an Australian opinion polling group, showed Prime Minister Scott Morrison's approval rating has dropped 8% since last month's poll. It is Morrison's worst showing in the poll since he took over leadership of the ruling Liberal Party in August 2018.
Political opposition has been criticising the slow performance of Morrison's government in the last distressing weeks of bushfires. Morrison has come under attack for being slow to respond to the crisis, even taking a family holiday to Hawaii while fires were burning. He acknowledged during a television interview on Sunday, January 12th that he had made some mistakes.
With the Australian bush burning for nearly three months now, killing 28 people, claiming 2,000 homes and raging across millions of acres of land and killing up to a billion wild animals, according to some estimates, the crisis is turning increasingly political. Facing increasing pressure to do more to tackle climate change, Morrison, who has been rejecting any links between his government's 'conservative climate policies' and the bushfires, said his government will look into improving its performance on curbing emissions. "We want to reduce emissions," he said. "I want to do that with a balanced policy which recognises Australia's broader national economic interests and social interest."
Thousands of Australians took to the streets on Friday, January 10th, to protest against government inaction on climate change and were supported by protesters in London.
Earlier, Morrison's government pledged A$2 billion Australian dollars ($1.4 billion US) for a newly created National Bushfire Recovery Agency. About 100 fire fighters from the United States and Canada are currently helping, with another 140 expected in the coming weeks.
The Insurance Council of Australia has increased its estimate of damage claims from the fires to more than A$900 million ($621 million US), and they are expected to increase further.
Bushfires are common during Australia's summer months but this fire season started unusually early, with fires often moving quickly and unpredictably and leaving vast spaces of land dry and burnt.
The Bureau of Meteorology forecasted earlier that some areas in which the fires occurred, such as New South Wales, could get up to 50 millimetres (two inches) of rain in the next week, a relief after a prolonged drought.