AUSTRALIA’S embattled prime minister has defended his government’s climate policy, as authorities warned the country’s wildfires crisis could fester for months.

Around 200 wildfires were burning in four states, with New South Wales accounting for more than half of them, including 60 which are not contained.

The disaster has led to renewed criticism that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative government has not taken enough action on climate change.

Morrison rejected calls to downsize Australia’s lucrative coal industry. “I am not going to write off the jobs of thousands of Australians by walking away from traditional industries,” he told Channel Seven.

Morrison carried out interviews with several Australian television networks yesterday morning in the aftermath of his much-criticised family holiday to Hawaii during the wildfires crisis.

READ MORE: ‘Catastrophic’ wildfires ravage Australia during record heatwave

He eventually cut short his break, returning to Sydney over the weekend and visiting evacuation and emergency control centres and the families of two firefighters killed battling blazes.

“We all make decisions. You do as a parent, I do as a parent. We seek to balance our work-life responsibilities and we all try to get that right,” Morrison said.

More than three million hectares (7.4m acres) of land has burned nationwide during a torrid past few months. Nine people have been killed and more than 900 homes destroyed.

Almost 800 homes have burned in New South Wales, which was paralysed last week by a seven-day state of emergency amid catastrophic conditions.

There will be desperately needed relief this week for the state, with cooler conditions forecast. However, New South Wales Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons warned: “We have to keep in mind that we’re not expecting any rainfall to make any meaningful difference to these fires until January or February.

“That’s still a way to go. We’re still talking four to six weeks at best before we start to see a meaningful reprieve in the weather.”

Morrison’s coalition government won a surprise third term in May.

Among its pledges was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% by 2030– a modest figure compared to the centre-left opposition’s pledge of 45%.

Morrison has insisted Australia will meet its emission targets.

“I’m going to maintain the course of responsible management, responsibly addressing the changes of climate change and responsibly ensuring that we can grow our economy in what is a very tough climate at the moment,” he said.