Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: AAP IMAGE/VIA REUTERS/KELLY BARNES
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: AAP IMAGE/VIA REUTERS/KELLY BARNES

Melbourne — Public support for Prime Minister Scott Morrison has slumped to its lowest levels since August 2018 amid widespread anger over his government's handling of Australia's bushfire crisis, according to a survey released by Newspoll on Monday.

At least 28 people have been killed in the fires that have destroyed 2,000 homes, and razed 11.2-million hectares, nearly half the area of the UK. Morrison has come under attack for being slow to respond to the crisis, even taking a family holiday to Hawaii while fires were burning. He acknowledged during a television interview on Sunday that he had made some mistakes.

“We have heard the message loud and clear from the Australian people,” treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Monday, when asked about the poll result as he announced a A$50m wildlife protection fund.

“They want to see a federal government adopt a very direct response to these natural and national disasters,” Frydenberg said.

The Newspoll survey showed Morrison's approval rating dropped 8% since the last poll on December 8 to stand at 37%, scoring lower than opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese.

It is Morrison's worst showing in the poll since he took over leadership of the ruling Liberal Party in August 2018, when a backbench uprising ousted former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

No margin of error was provided for the poll, which surveyed 1,505 people from Wednesday to Saturday, although it was about 2.5% points in previous Newspolls.

The poll was taken after Morrison announced a A$2bn bushfire recovery fund and called out 3,000 army reservists to back up state emergency workers — responses that were viewed as belated.

Morrison said on Sunday he would take a proposal to Cabinet to hold a Royal Commission national inquiry into the bushfires, including examining the response to the crisis, the role and powers of the federal government and the effect of climate change.

After weeks of raging fires whipped up by erratic winds and temperatures over 40°C), conditions eased at the weekend with showers forecast for New South Wales (NSW), the worst hit state, over the next few days.

“If this Bureau of Meteorology rainfall forecast comes to fruition then this will be all of our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation presents rolled into one. Fingers crossed,” the NSW Rural Fire Service said on Twitter.

Reuters