Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison received a hostile welcome while touring the fire-ravaged town of Cobargo in the New South Wales region, even as the nation witnesses one of its biggest evacuations due to the raging bushfires. Morrison was heckled by people and there were two videos of people who refused to shake his hand when he met them.
A firefighter refused to shake Morrison’s hand when the Prime Minister approached him during a coffee break Thursday. The video, that has since gone viral, showed Morrison trying to shake the man’s hand. However, the man responded, “I don’t really want to shake your hand.”
The Prime Minister said it was nice to see him and stepped away, to which the firefighter responded in kind. As the Prime Minister stood behind him, the firefighter got up and walked out.
A local fire official in the background was heard explaining that the man had lost his own house while saving others.
Another video showed angry residents yelling at Morrison, calling him an “idiot” and much worse. One person said, “You’re not welcome here,” and another shouted, “you won’t be getting any votes here”. An awkward Morrison later got into his official vehicle and left.
Another video showed a woman who did not immediately take Morrison’s outstretched hand, so the Prime Minister reached down to take her hand and shake it.
Our Prime Minister, forcing a handshake on a woman for the cameras, and then walking away as she begs him to do his job and help our volunteer firefighters.#AustraliaBurning #AUSTRALIANBUSHFIRES #dismisstheprimeminister pic.twitter.com/f9pPnoMGx6
— Tom Taylor (@TomTaylorMade) January 2, 2020
“I’m only shaking your hand if you give more money to the RFS, so many people here have lost their homes. We need more help,” she said, before Morrison patted her on the back and walked away.
Speaking to the media Friday, Morrison he didn’t take the attacks personally.
“I just see it as a sense of frustration and hurt and loss and anger that is out there about what is the ferocity of these natural disasters,” he told reporters in Bairnsdale in eastern Victoria state.
“And I understand that, and we will seek to provide that comfort and support in whatever way we can,” he said. The Australian Prime Minister also said he was inclined to cancel his visit to India later this month on account of the fires that continue to wreak havoc.
Why Morrison is being criticised
The prime minister was criticised in December for going on a family holiday to Hawaii even as fires raged across five states. He then cut the holiday short and apologised for making a mistake.
Morrison was then criticised for spending New Year’s Eve with cricketers and watching fireworks over Sydney Harbour from his official waterfront mansion, Kirribilli House. The Prime Minister was being accused of being insensitive as thousands were evacuated from fire-hit areas.
— Adrian Arciuli (@Adrian_Arciuli) January 1, 2020
The death toll due to the fires now stands at 18 and thousands of hectares have been destroyed by the fire. The Prime Minister has also faced criticism for refusing to acknowledge the role of climate change in the fires, with Australia being one of the biggest exporters of coal. Morrison has blamed a three-year drought and lack of hazard reduction for the unprecedented extent and duration of this year’s bushfires.
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