VIDEO: Who is responsible for the Australian Bushfire Crisis?

Presented by Tim Minchin.

G’day friends of A Rational Fear,

The 2019/2020 summer bushfire crisis has been stressful for Australians everywhere. Not knowing what to do in times like this can be paralysing. Even if you can’t hold a hose it’s important to do what you can, not matter what your skills are. So with some extremely talented people, A Rational Fear presents: Who is responsible for the Australian Bushfire Crisis?

Big thanks to everyone who came on board to make this happen over the last 3 weeks. Especially Kara Schlegl who is one of Australia’s most erudite writers. She has written an introduction to the video and included all of her research below.


Researched and Compiled by Kara Eva Schlegl
Additional research and fact checking:  Simon Holmes à Court
Special thanks to Dan Ilic, Alex Gabbott, Maria Yanovsky, Ena Markovic, Matt Perrott, James Colley, Scott Ludlam, Tim Minchin, Simon & Katrina Holmes à Court & Dick Smith. 


I was driving home at 3am, after my team and I finalised the edit of this video, and a government ad came on the radio advising that extreme water restrictions are now in place, due to the severe drought currently afflicting NSW. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m furious. Furious that we are governed by people who will instruct us to have shorter showers, and at the same time, will allow Australia’s mining sector to consume over 20% of our freshwater supply every single year

I’m furious that our government will pour billions of dollars into the mining sector, but refuses to pay even minimum wage to the firefighters who put their lives on the line for us every bushfire season.

In December 2019, Prime Minister Scott Morrison ran a campaign of deflection, telling the Australian people that the unprecedented bushfire crisis raging across the country had nothing to do with his government’s inaction on climate change, saying that emissions reductions in Australia won’t make a difference to the climate. 

The truth is, taking action on climate change isn’t limited to emissions reduction. Taking action means heeding the warnings, and investing time, money and influence into preventing the worst from happening, and preparing our country for oncoming disasters.

Our governments didn’t take action on climate change, and now, in the words of NSW RFS Firefighter Darin Sullivan, ‘we’ve gotta deal with it’. 

I hope this document, and the video it accompanies, gives us a better understanding of the circumstances that led to the  2019 - 2020 bushfire crisis, and inspires us to help prevent it from happening again.

- Kara

Research & References

The Link Between Climate Change and Bushfires

The Garnaut Climate Change Review; Final Report, Ross Garnaut, 2008

CSIRO Bushfire Research, 2020

The Facts About Climate Change and Bushfires, Climate Council, 2019

AR5 Climate Change: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, IPCC report, 2014

‘This is Not Normal’: Climate Change and Escalating Bushfire Risk, Climate Council, 12 November 2019 

Climate change will hit Australia harder than rest of world, study shows

“Australian bushfire danger under changing climatic regimes” in Greenhouse: Planning for Climate Change, T. Beer et al. 1987

CSIRO Warns of Serious Bushfire Risk,  The Canberra Times, Tuesday 15 Dec 1987

Full list of Fire and Emergency Chiefs' recommendations to Federal Government

VIDEO: Darin Sullivan, Firefighter/NSW Fire Brigade Employees Union @ Wollongong Protest for Action on the Bushfire Crisis, 11 Jan 2020

VIDEO: Former Fire Chiefs Deliver Climate Change Warning, SBS, 14 Nov, 2019

Debunking Myths;

How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia’s Bushfire Debate

The truth about Australia's fires — arsonists aren't responsible for many this season

Debunking the myth that the Greens caused the bushfire crisis: An interview with MLC David Shoebridge

Factcheck: Is there really a green conspiracy to stop bushfire hazard reduction?

VIDEO: RFS Fire Chief Interview - The window for Hazard Reduction burns is shrinking

Bushfire Inquiries, Royal Commissions, and Expert Recommendations to the Federal Government

A Nation Charred: Inquiry into the Recent Australian Bushfires, House Select Committee, 2003 

Bushfires in Australia,  Prepared for the 2009 Senate Inquiry into Bushfires in Australia, CSIRO July 2009 

Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission: Final Report, 2009 

On Bushfire Disaster Preparedness and Response in Victoria, Australia, following the Ash Wednesday Fires 16 February 1983; Report of the Bushfire Review Committee, April 1984

Indigenous innovation could save a billion tonnes of greenhouse gases

I tried to warn Scott Morrison about the bushfire disaster. Adapting to climate change isn’t enough | Greg Mullins

Our land is burning, and western science does not have all the answers

Complete Lists of Inquiries;

Learning from Adversity: What Has 75 Years of Bushfire Inquiries Taught Us? Conference Paper 2014 (51 Bushfire Inquiries, from 1939 - 2013)

Bushfires in NSW: Timelines and Key Resources; NSW Parliamentary Research Service, June 2014 (Incl. Bushfires List and Inquiries from all states)

Major Bushfire Inquiries - Federal Senate, 1939 - 2010

Bushfire Reviews and Inquiries; Victoria State Government, 1939 - 2013 

Federal Government Response to Bushfires and Inquiries

A national disaster

Morrison's government on the bushfires: from attacking climate 'lunatics' to calling in the troops

Australia fires: PM admits mistakes in handling of crisis

Scott Morrison's biggest failure in the bushfire crisis: an inability to deliver collective action

Watching our politicians fumble through the bushfire crisis, I'm overwhelmed by déjà vu

"Now Is Not The Time To Discuss How We Ignored Decades Of Warnings That This Would Happen" (Satire, but accurate)

We have already had countless bushfire inquiries. What good will it do to have another?

Liberal Party division explains Morrison's muted crisis response

A classic case of kicking the can down the road

Scott Morrison Once Scolded Ex-Police Commissioner for Going Out to Dinner During Bushfire Crisis


I had to come to see for myself: Prime Ministers, Natural Disasters, and the People

Black Saturday ten years on – what did we discover?

Australian 'Black Saturday' bush fires response was 'inadequate'

Government acting on Black Saturday report

Australia: Government culpability in 2009 Victorian bushfires

The Federal Government & Climate Inaction

Scott Morrison says the government is acting on emissions. Is it true?

Coalition gets a miserable 4% on climate change policy scorecard

75 Out Of 77 Government MPs Wouldn't Give Us Their Views On Climate Change

Behind the smokescreen, the Coalition's stance on climate change hasn't changed | Greg Jericho

The Nationals have changed their leader but kept the same climate story

Aus Institute: Cost of climate inaction $130b per year

Climate inaction weighs on Australian CEOs

Climate change impact on Australian economy may force RBA to buy coal mines, power stations


Global Warming and Climate Change: What Australia Knew and Buried, Maria Taylor, ANU Press, 2014

Australia and Greenhouse Policy- A Chronology, From 1861 - 1997


Bob Hawke, the environmental PM, bequeathed a huge 'what if' on climate change

Twenty-five years of Australian climate pledges, trumped…

Cabinet papers 1994-95: Keating's climate policy grapples sound eerily familiar

In Australia, climate policy battles are endlessly reheated

The renewable energy train is unstoppable. The NEG needs to get on board

How government inaction fuelled Australia's renewable energy boom

Important Documentation;

Industry Commission Report: Costs and Benefits of Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Vol 1 & 2, Inquiry commissioned by the Keating Administration, 1991  

The Cabinet Papers: 1994 - 1995, Keating Administration

The Federal Government & the Fossil Fuels Industry

Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies Remain Large: An Update Based on Country-Level Estimates, IMF Working Paper, May 2019

Fossil Fuel Industry Donations to Australian Political Parties, Market Forces, 2019

Behind closed doors: Australia pushes reputation as world’s leading fossil fuel dealer

Dirty Power: Big Coal’s network of influence over the Coalition Government, Greenpeace, 2019

Australia fires: The government is clinging to coal as the country burns

Billionaire Mining Magnate Andrew Forrest hosts election fundraisers for Scott Morrison AND Bill Shorten

Coal Production is on the Rise in Australia: IEG Energy Atlas, 2019

'Twiggy' Forrest clarifies climate stance after $70 million bushfire donation

Adani Carmichael Coal Mine;

Our Fight: Stop Adani Destroying Our Land and Culture

Why Adani's planned Carmichael coalmine matters to Australia – and the world

Adani coal mine a step closer with Environment Minister endorsing groundwater approvals

Why does the Carmichael coal mine need to use so much water?

The Adani mine was a key factor in the government's election win. Now what?

Adani coal mine approval hailed by federal government

Will Adani be the 'ice-breaker' for six more proposed Galilee mines?

Queensland extinguishes native title over Indigenous land to make way for Adani coalmine

Indigenous challenge to Adani mine agreement dismissed by Federal Court

Indigenous People No Longer Have The Legal Right To Say No To The Adani Mine - Here's What It Means For Equality

Federal Government Cuts to Public Services

Bushfire states face $451m disaster funding cut

Coalition plans $1.5bn APS budget cuts, promises to spare a few agencies

Scott Morrison cuts government departments in major public service changes

Community Sector Funding Cuts – ACOSS

Public service and other purposes

Mixed news for science in the 2019-20 Budget

Australia cuts research funding for universities: Government investment at lowest in 40 years

Concerns federal budget takes foot off the innovation accelerator

Public service review did not look at cutting federal departments, official says

Outcry over Federal Government’s decision to defund Indigenous family violence organisation

Scott Morrison abolishes Department of Communications and Arts as part of public service restructure

The ABC didn't receive a reprieve in the budget. It's still facing staggering cuts

Further Reading and Resources

CSIRO Website

Climate Council Website

Bureau of Meteorology: Research 

Renew Economy: Clean Energy Analysis

The Australian Institute: Research that Matters

NSW Rural Fire Services: Resources and Publications

State and Territory fire agencies

IPCC: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change