The decision that the Morrison government seems to have taken to appoint a royal commission into the bush fires is one of the most significant decisions it is likely to take. I say ‘seems to have taken’, because some of the state governments are reluctant to give a carte blanche to a federal inquiry into what is essentially a state matter, namely land use. Most of the fires have taken place in forests for which the states are solely responsible. State governments know they would be held hostage to a royal commission of which they are part and they are probably petrified that once the monster is out of its cage, it will come to the conclusion that state governments grievously failed to insist on more backburning and to ensure the fire services were properly funded, staffed and equipped. The cunning Victorian government has already voiced its opposition to a royal commission and it is no co-incidence that it has a discreditable history of neutering the volunteer firefighters’ service and expanding the power of Daniel Andrews’ mates in the highly-unionised city fire brigades. It would be remarkable if that sad and sorry story of political intrigue and corruption is not given a good going over in the royal commission. So, as of today, it looks as if the Morrison government is sleepwalking into a solely federal royal commission.
Next, you will notice that I said the decision to set up the royal commission was ‘significant’. I did not say it is a good decision and I do not think it is. Nor did I say that it was a politically smart decision, because I do not believe that in the long run the government will get any benefit from it, and it has enormous downside risk. It was conceived in guilt and fear and in the PM’s false belief that it will get him off the hook for his egregiously false start to managing the crisis. The government is on the defensive and has promoted the royal commission only in the naive hope that the people will forgive and forget what they believe to be true: that the government caused the fire crisis itself by not adopting the extreme climate change agenda and that it was too slow and half-hearted in responding.
But it is certainly a significant decision, because it will be the main vehicle that the Labor party, the Greens and the whole climate change and media lobby will use to beat the government over the head at the next election. The royal commission will be the dress rehearsal. Anyone with the right to appear will have an open go to say whatever they want in their so-called evidence. Witnesses will disparage anyone they wish and make endless speeches about the evils of climate change, how it alone has caused the bushfires and how the government is solely responsible for the whole disaster. Indeed, after all the build-up and public hysteria, and all the promises that have been made that the royal commission will get to the bottom of the tragedy, can you imagine a royal commissioner stopping a witness from making a speech about how climate change causes bushfires? Picture Greta Thunberg in full flight, scowling and screaming ‘How Dare You?’ and you have a good idea of what the atmosphere will be like in a royal commission into bushfires.
Moreover, there are three decisions that will have to be made, all of which spell trouble for the government. First, there will be the all-important terms of reference. There will be an irresistible push to have them as broad as possible and that means an inquiry into climate change and everything that can be shoe-horned into it. Get ready for twelve months of lectures liberally supported by so-called scientific evidence that no one will dare to challenge.
Secondly, there will be the all-important decision on who is to conduct the commission. Morrison’s stature has been so weakened that he will be putty in the hands of the left media and will not be able to avoid appointing one or more darlings of the Left to head the inquiry. My guess is that the left lobby will insist on having three or more commissioners and there have been several precedents where that structure has already been used. So get ready for a big push to have pro-climate change zealots on the commission. As this cause has now been taken over by the passionate young, there will also have to be at least one youth representative. The worst appointees will be popular and acceptable when they get the nod, but quickly go native after appointment. Heaven help the government when that happens.
Thirdly, all of this is small beer compared to the question of who will be allowed to give evidence? The zealots will not miss the opportunity to use the commission to further their own campaign. Why should they? The royal commission will be a ready-made platform for every activist, not only on fires, but climate change and every related field. Obviously, witnesses will include the former state fire chiefs who claim to have made submissions to Morrison on fire prevention that were ignored. The inquiry will inevitably reopen the Adani debate and what happens if a recommendation is made to stop the entire project? The whole of the climate change lobby, including Get Up!, will be there, and it will be a great opportunity to blackmail banks and companies like Siemens to submit to the climate change lash.
This is not just an unwise decision. It is a courageous one.
Finally, after years of abuse of News Ltd for allegedly dictating the policy of its media outlets, we are now told the company should order those same outlets to argue in favour of one particular policy — the new religion of climate change. Are we all now enslaved to this hysteria?