Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited the firefighters battling the bushfire crisis on Sunday as he apologized for a Hawaiian holiday that ended early after public outrage.
Morrison toured the headquarters of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service whose exhausted volunteers have been struggling to contain deadly, out-of-control-blazes for months on end where he admitted he had erred in traveling overseas.
Morrison had departed for a family holiday amid record bushfires that have destroyed an area the size of Belgium and cloaked major cities from Brisbane to Sydney to Canberra to Melbourne in choking toxic fumes.
“I get it that people would have been upset to know that I was holidaying with my family while their families were under great stress,” he said.
“If you had your time over again and the benefit of hindsight we would have made different decisions.”
News of his holiday prompted street protests and widespread criticism on social media, with Australians deploying the hashtag #WhereTheBloodyHellAreYa?
“I apologize,” he said. “There have been lessons learned this week,” adding that he believed it was time to move on from the controversy.
“I’m sure Australians are fair-minded and understand that when you make a promise to your kids, you try and keep it,” the conservative leader said by way of explanation.
The embattled prime minister again acknowledged some link between climate change and weather patterns that scientists say has fuelled the fire crisis, but he indicated there would be no change in pro-coal policies.