“I have obviously returned from leave and I know that has caused some great anxiety in Australia and (my wife) Jenny and I acknowledge that,” Morrison said in a news conference on Sunday. “If you had your time over again and you had the benefit of hindsight then (you’d) have made different decisions.”
Morrison was heavily criticized for taking a pre-Christmas trip to Hawaii as thousands of firefighters worked to contain the wildfires.
“I’m sure Australians … understand that when you make a promise to your kids you try and keep it. But as prime minister you have other responsibilities,” he said at the news conference. “I accept the criticism.”
A state of emergency was declared in the state for the second time in two months.
The connection to climate change
The bushfires have been burning for two months now, exacerbated by strong winds that stoke the flames and spread dangerous embers, and by rising temperatures– including a record-breaking heat wave that began earlier this week.
The prime minister acknowledged there is a connection between weather events, fire events and global climate change.
At the news conference Sunday, Morrison said there is “no argument” about the links between “broader issues of global climate change and weather events around the world.”
“But I’m sure people equally would acknowledge that the direct connection to any single fire event, it’s not a credible suggestion to make that link,” he said.
“We must take action on climate change, we are taking action on climate change,” he said Sunday.
Sunday was expected to be cooler, the Bureau of Meteorology for New South Wales wrote, but many communities “away from the coast will still experience significant heat.”
‘Some have lost everything’
Since September, the death toll from the wildfires has jumped to nine, with nearly 800 homes destroyed in the country.
“Some have lost everything, some have received news their properties have been saved, & others are still waiting to find out,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Twitter. “Their common message was deep gratitude for our amazing firefighters.”
CNN’s Jessie Yeung, Jonny Hallam, Sandi Sidhu and Sugam Pokharel contributed to this report.