As Australia burns, people and animals die, and homes are destroyed, it's hard to imagine a more detached and offensive request the Prime Minister could have made during a recent press conference.
In stark contrast, Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioners have stoically addressed the nation almost daily over the past few weeks using authoritative, candid and guiding language, while NSW Transport Minister and Bega resident Andrew Constance became visibly impassioned during an interview with the ABC.
Scott Morrison has a tough gig right now. Australians could probably forgive a handful of misplaced words from the Prime Minister – if they weren’t the tip of the iceberg.
Haunting images from inside ravaged townships have appeared on front pages and news channels around the world. Troops, ships and aircraft are being deployed to evacuate trapped residents and provide disaster relief. Where is Scott Morrison while all this is going on? Posing for photos alongside Aussie cricketers at Kirribilli House.
The list of bad decisions, jarring messages and too-little-too-late gestures from the PM continues to grow. The backlash has been loud and clear and, not surprisingly, making headlines. The hashtag #wherethebloodyhellareyou was trending on Twitter after Morrison left for his unannounced holiday to Hawaii.
In the past few days, 'ScoMo' started visiting affected communities. Whether it was a genuine show of empathy or an act of damage-control for his own image, it wasn’t going to be pretty. With the nation's media watching (thanks to the media alerts that had gone out), the PM should have been briefed and prepared for what was inevitably coming his way. In Cobargo he was confronted by very angry locals. Firefighters didn’t even want to shake his hand. Rather than digging deep, listening to people and using the opportunity to prove his critics wrong, he turned and walked away.
His jaw-dropping response to these interactions: "I don't take it personally."
If there's any chance of ScoMo piecing his reputation back together and becoming the leader this country needs, he might want to start taking it personally. Until that happens, he’s going to continue pouring fuel on the public's fear and rage, which is turning into a PR nightmare.
Caroline Addy is the managing director of Milk & Honey PR, Sydney