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Australia bushfires: Scott Morrison admits regret over his response to fires and promises inquiry

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 12/01/2020 Telegraph Reporters

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(Video by ABC News)

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Australia's prime minister has admitted that he regrets his response to bushfires that have ravaged his country and will propose an inquiry into the handling of the blazes.

Another firefighter died on Saturday - taking the death toll for the fires that have been raging in Australia for nearly three months to 28. Two thousand homes have been destroyed and millions of acres of land have been scorched with a catastrophic effect on wildlife.

Scott Morrison wearing glasses and a suit and tie: Scott Morrison insists his government wants to reduce emissions © LUKAS COCH/REX Scott Morrison insists his government wants to reduce emissions Scott Morrison said he would propose a powerful judicial inquiry, known as the Royal Commission, into the handling of the fires.

"There is obviously a need for a national review of the response," Mr Morrison said in an interview with ABC.

Asked whether it should be a Royal Commission, Mr Morrison said, "I think that is what would be necessary and I will be taking a proposal through the cabinet to that end, but it must be done with consultations with the states and territories."

Mr Morrison's office rejected criticism that his government had not done enough before the bushfire season started but he admitted that once the fires started, some responses could have been different.

Gallery: Wildfires in Australia (Photo Services)

"There are things I could have handled on the ground much better," he said. "These are sensitive environments, there are very emotional environments; prime ministers are flesh and blood too in how they engage with people."

Facing increasing pressure to do more to tackle climate change, Mr Morrison, who has so far been defiant in 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 and do the best job we possibly can and get better and better and better at it," said Mr Morrison, who has pledged A$2 billion (£1.1 billion) to a newly created National Bushfire Recovery Agency.

a group of people posing for the camera: Thousands of people protested in Sydney on Saturday over the government's handling of the fires © Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg Thousands of people protested in Sydney on Saturday over the government's handling of the fires "I want to do that with a balanced policy which recognises Australia's broader national economic interests and social interest."

Cooler weather conditions have brought a temporary respite for many of Australia's burning areas over the weekend, but a firefighter died on duty in Victoria, where new flames sparked and authorities said lives and homes are still under threat.

Authorities said the risk was far from over and more hot weather is expected.

MSN UK is committed to Empowering the Planet and taking urgent action to protect our environment against the climate crisis. We’re supporting those on the front line tackling the Australian bushfire crisis. Find out more about our campaign here.

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