When I read about "thoughts and prayers" and accusations of politicising and weaponising tragedies for political gain, I did a double take and scrolled back to the top of the page just to check that I was reading an Australian newspaper and not a US one.
These phrases surrounding the debate on the NSW bushfires sound eerily similar to the rhetoric in another debate that's been going on for years now: gun control in the US.
Every time there's a shooting in a school, nightclub or cinema, conservative politicians take to the airwaves criticising those pesky Democrats of trying to score political points off tragedies, and offering instead their "thoughts and prayers" to those affected by the shootings.
This has the effect of decoupling a causal issue, whether that be climate change or the ease of access to dangerous firearms, to its highly visible and pressing effects that are dominating public concern.
The concerning thing about this tactic is that it works. It's become such a regular occurrence that there's a script for it: following every shooting, there is inevitably some proposition for gun control legislation - quickly shut down by the NRA - and accusations by prominent Republican politicians of Democrats politicising the tragedy and instead offering thoughts and prayers. It is very effective at making people ignore the fact that firearms are so sparsely regulated in the US, and instead making them consider fringe correlations like mental illness or the preponderance of video games.
After a week, the political momentum peters out and nothing is done to address the crux of the issue. The issue of gun control regulation slinks back into the shadowy depths, out of mind and out of sight, and lies in wait to inevitably strike again. Rinse and repeat.
Make no mistake - climate change-driven events will strike again, and with increasing frequency. There is an overwhelming amount of research connecting extreme weather conditions and climate change. We will be witnesses to far more cruel and frequent extreme weather incidents over the coming decades.
I am scared that the direction of this debate in Australia will eventuate to resemble the gun control debate in the US. We've seen it with the droughts and now we're seeing it with the bushfires. It's a merry-go-round of the same verbal sparring - both sides of politics refusing to engage with each other, while the losses and casualties continue to pile up.
The process is frustrating, unproductive and only desensitises the minds of voters to the issue at hand. There is no discernible public benefit to engaging in such a process. In other words, it is a useless waste of time and money. This frustration will only be exacerbated by the fact that Australia has the material resources, skill and international standing to affect some meaningful progress regarding this issue.
Please, Australia, let's not fall into the same trap as the US. Wake up, smell the coffee (and the smoke), and get on with it.
- Noah Yim is a law and international relations student at ANU and is a former editor-in-chief of ANU's student media organisation, Woroni.