Scott Morrison has welcomed in 2020 by stating Australia “is the most amazing country on earth” while acknowledging the deadly toll of the terrible bushfires.
Both Mr Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese have released statements to mark the New Year.
The PM’s message, done together with wife Jenny, focused on the bushfires that have killed 11 people and destroyed almost 1000 homes.
“I know it’s been a tough past 12 months, especially with the terrible bushfires that have claimed the lives of so many Australians,” Mr Morrison said.
“There’s also been the drought that continues and, of course, the floods earlier last year.
“But the one thing we can always celebrate in Australia is that we live in the most amazing country on earth and the wonderful Aussie spirit that means that we always overcome whatever challenges that we face.”
He added that Australians “always look optimistically” into the future.
“There’s no better place to raise kids anywhere on the planet, and we’re just so grateful that we can all live in this amazing country, and that’s something we can always give thanks for as we enter into this New Year.”
Mrs Morrison urged Australians to be “kind to everyone this year coming up”.
However, Greens leader Richard Di Natale has criticised the Prime Minister on social media, saying he is “failing in his basic duty to keep our citizens safe” because of his “inadequate response” to climate change.
In a series of Twitter posts on New Year’s Day morning, Mr Di Natale took aim at the PM.
“We cannot ignore the fact that Scott Morrison is failing in his basic duty to keep our citizens safe from harm through his inadequate response to these fires and his refusal to accept that burning climate changing fossil fuels would lead to more frequent and intense bushfire,” he wrote.
The Australian arm of campaign group Extinction Rebellion – which has been responsible for a number of climate-related protests during 2019 – also took a swipe at Mr Morrison.
This morning it put a post on social media with another recent quote from Mr Morrison where he said he wanted “children growing up in Australia to feel positive about their future” and not to have “needles anxieties”.
It contrasted that with an image of four kids with gas masks sheltering in a vehicle while the red glow of nearby bushfires envelopes them.
Mr Morrison has said that climate change is linked to more extreme weather conditions. But as recently as last week he said there was no “credible suggestion” to directly link the current fires to a worsening climate.
“We must take action on climate change, and we are taking action on climate change,” he said on December 22.
However, climate change experts have criticised the Government’s use of a so-called “loophole” that allows it to use carry-over credits from the Kyoto agreement to meet Paris targets.
Mr Albanese began his message with a cheery “G’day”. In the video he is on a sofa with his pet dog Toto.
But his message was more sombre, saying while this time of year is usually a “time of joy”, it was a “challenging time” instead.
“I hope that the New Year brings relief to everyone dealing with the harsh reality of the bushfire crisis. I hope it gets easier for our brave firefighters who have been putting themselves in harm’s way for so many months now,’ he said.
“We think of those who have lost their lives and their loved ones at this extremely difficult time of grief. We think of everyone who has lost their home.
“If you have had it tough, I really hope your new year is brighter.”
Mr Albanese concluded by wishing that 2020 brings “health, happiness, and all that you hope for”.