What was Janelle Saffin supposed to do?
In November state Labor MP Janelle Saffin was visiting Nimbin a community affected by bushfire. Saffin was confronted by a distressed resident demanding to know why she was ‘doing nothing’ while fires raged in her region. It was an ugly encounter with Saffin unable to get a word in edgeways. The resident was clearly distressed…
But I wonder what they were expecting from their local representative.
Janelle Saffin had won the seat of Lismore at the NSW election just eight months earlier. She’s a member of the opposition; not the government. I’m not sure Saffin could be found guilty of ‘doing nothing’ or ‘laughing at us’ as she was accused. I’m sure Saffin was doing all she could to support affected communities; she certainly wasn’t laughing.
Losing our minds and losing our manners
The distress of these natural disasters has caused many to lose perspective and their manners. Greens Senator Jordan Steele-John went as far to call the major parties’ arsonists. Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce blamed the fires on Green policies even indirectly blamed bushfire victims for how they may have voted.
The biggest criticism was reserved for Scott Morrison. Blasted for having a holiday with his family, derided for his lack of empathy when meeting bushfire victims and protestors declaring the Prime Minister has blood on his hands because of his governments climate change policies. Some are holding Scott Morrison personally responsible for every bushfire and every death.
Suits not capes
Amid the mudslinging perhaps it’s worth asking if we’ve come to expect too much from our elected leaders. Governments can do many things: They can create laws to assist with fire management, they can fund emergency services, they can help educate the community and they can make policies that benefit the environment. No government can protect every community from the threat of bushfire and no politician should be held personally responsible for their occurrence. No government could ever fund enough resources for the emergency services that would ensure everyone’s safety. Politicians wear suits; not capes.
Scott Morrison can’t be held personally responsible for the worldwide problem of climate change. Australia’s emissions account for a little over 1 percent of worldwide carbon emissions. Hold him responsible for our 1% but not China’s 29%. Australia is a high emitter of carbon pollution per capita so let’s expect Morrison take significant environmental action. After all there should no argument against cleaner water, breathable air, healthy wildlife and vegetation. It’s God’s creation; all Christians should support its preservation.
Scott Morrison may pray to a deity but it’s important to remember he isn’t one. He doesn’t have the power to end a severe drought; his policies are not the sole cause of bushfires. It appears that increasingly as a society we’re holding politicians responsible for matters entirely beyond their control. For this I blame politicians.
Politicians having a lend of us
John Howard went to the 2004 election promising the keep interest rates at record lows. Politically it was a clever campaign tactic and Howard won reelection. John Howard however never had control over interest rates and by the 2007 election they had risen six times. It was a broken promise but Howard was having a lend of us claiming he could keep them low in the first place.
Governments frequently lay claim to creating jobs or keeping the economy strong. The reality is governments don’t control the economy nor are they directly responsible for job creation. International factors could even wipe out Morrison’s promised budget surplus.
Governments all too often take credit for economic successes as if they were solely responsible for them but blame economic setbacks on international factors beyond their control. Perhaps if politicians stopped taking credit for things beyond their control the rest of us might also stop blaming them for their inability to control the forces of nature.
Hope and Change
People ought to be wary of the danger of putting their hopes for a better world in the hands of politicians who are as failed and flawed as the rest of us. Barrack Obama was elected in 2008 in a wave of enthusiasm promising change. Obama may have done some good things during his tenure but he didn’t change our fundamental human nature. Obama came and went and the world is still selfish, greedy, angry and resentful. That’s not Obama’s fault; he was just a politician and not the messiah.
Don’t get distracted
Christians care about politics but they shouldn’t put all their hopes in politics to usher in a world of love and justice. Christians look to Jesus and pray for his kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Christians are God’s representatives displaying and proclaiming his love and goodness in every street and every city of the world. Christians should not let the drama of Canberra or Washington distract us from task of being the hands and feet of Jesus in our communities today.
Travis Barnes lives in central Victoria with his wife and two daughters. He is a contributor for Christian Today and a sportswriter.