As bushfires continue to ravage major parts of Australia, destroying homes and even taking lives, the tension between the communities affected and Prime Minister Scott Morrison as reached an all-time high.
Footage has emerged of the PM visiting Cobargo, an area located on the South Coast of NSW which was hit by the deadly New Year’s Eve fires that killed local father and son Robert and Patrick Salway.
At one point, Scott Morrison asks to shake the hand of a local woman who says, “I’m only shaking your hand if you give more funding to our RFS.” In response, the PM forces the woman to shake his hand and then turns his back on her when she continued to ask for his help.
In another part of the video, Morrison is seen attempting to shake the hand of a firefighter, who tells him, “I don’t really want to shake your hand.” The PM is heard saying, “Oh, well. Nice to see you.” Later, he was heard telling an official, “Tell that fella I’m really sorry, I’m sure he’s just tired,” to which an incident controller responds, “No, no, he’s lost a house.”
Morrison was quick to walk away when angry Cobargo residents hurled abuse at him, and he’s receiving just as much sympathy on social media.
Earlier this week, Scott Morrison copped criticism when he hosted the annual reception for the Australian and New Zealand cricket sides at Kirribilli House and said the fires would happen “against the backdrop of this test match.”
It’s safe to say Morrison’s comments didn’t go down well, with many claiming it’s not an appropriate time to be celebrating cricket in the midst of a bushfire crisis.
Responding to backlash received from Cobargo residents and social media over the hand shake, Morrison told radio station 3AW that he knows “people are angry” with him. “All I know is that they are hurting, and it’s my job to try and offer some comfort and support.”
“That’s my job, I don’t take these things personally, why would I?” he added.
One thing is for certain, and that is with a rising death toll and hundreds of homes and communities lost to these fires, comfort and support doesn’t come in the form of a forced hand shake.