Home Australia Morrison told ‘he should be ashamed of himself’ as he visits bushfire-ravaged Cobargo

Morrison told ‘he should be ashamed of himself’ as he visits bushfire-ravaged Cobargo

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been confronted by angry protesters in the bushfire-hit town of Cobargo in New South Wales.

Two people died near the Bega Valley town when it was hit by a raging bushfire early on New Year’s Eve.

Visiting the town on Thursday to meet emergency services workers and offer his support to bushfire victims, the PM found himself confronted by a group of angry locals.

One protester told Mr Morrison he should be “ashamed of himself” and said he had “left the country to burn”.

The protester yelled, “You’re a mutt ScoMo”.

“I’m not surprised people are feeling very raw at the moment,” Mr Morrison told the ABC after the confrontation.

“That’s why I came today, to be here, to see it for myself [and] offer what comfort I could.

“I understand the strong feelings people have; they’ve lost everything. There’s been a lot of emotion … and I understand that emotion.”

Mr Morrison’s visit came as authorities warned conditions in the NSW and Victorian firegrounds on Saturday could be as bad as those on New Year’s Eve.

New South Wales will enter a state of emergency on Friday morning as tourists are ordered to get out of a 14,000-square-kilometre area between Nowra and the edge of Victoria’s northern border.

Many evacuees are struggling to find fuel while there are long queues outside supermarkets and shops.

Across the border in Victoria, the Navy has been called in to help evacuate the town of Mallacoota, which was ravaged by fires on New Year’s Eve.

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed and eight people are known to have died.

Mr Morrison is set to meet with the National Security Committee of Cabinet on Monday to discuss the ongoing response to the bushfire crisis.

Asked whether his response to the crisis was adequate, the Prime Minister said now was a time to remain calm.

“This isn’t about prime ministers, premiers, mayors, politics, it’s about the people that need the help and the resources on the ground,” he said at a briefing in the fire-ravaged town of Cobargo.

“That’s the only thing that has my focus and attention.”

‘We cannot control the natural disaster but what we can do is control our response’

Earlier Mr Morrison told the public the best way to respond was “the way that Australians have always responded to these events” and to have confidence in state emergency services.

“What we are saying is we cannot control the natural disaster, but what we can do is control our response,” he said.

“What we can do is support those who are out there putting themselves at risk by showing the patience and the calm that is necessary.”

However, he did confirm the National Security Committee of Cabinet would meet on Monday to address “contingencies” required for the current fire season “as well as the longer-term response and some issues we have identified to consider amongst premiers after the fires”.

“We are considering every option because we know the fire season still has a long time to run and particularly now as we are calling in more ADF [Australian Defence Force] assets to deal with this,” he said.

Growing climate concern

The bushfires have already proven a lightning rod for concern around the warming climate and more criticism of Federal Government policy exploded on Thursday.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the bushfires were “certainly not business as usual” and as a national emergency, the situation should prompt a more ambitious response to emissions reduction.

“Here’s the contradiction in the Government’s position — they say, ‘Oh, well, we’re just 1.3 per cent of [global] emissions, therefore we don’t have a responsibility to act, it won’t really make a difference’,” he said.

“But the truth is that if everyone says that, of course, no-one will act.”

At a press conference in Sydney, Mr Morrison defended his Government’s response to the fires and pledged to “meet and beat” Australia’s emission reduction targets.

He highlighted the Federal Government’s role in supporting those affected through disaster relief payments and the deployment of defence force assets.

And he reiterated the need to find a balance between a “vibrant and viable economy, as well as a vibrant and sustainable environment”.

“The suggestion that there is a single policy, whether it be climate or otherwise, can provide a complete insurance policy on fires in Australia, well I don’t think any Australian has ever understood that was the case in this country,” he said.

Young Liberals in climate push

A call for a fresh approach to emission reductions emerged from within the Coalition’s support base on Thursday.

The NSW Young Liberals called for a “policy framework” that provides more certainty in the market and encourages investment in more efficient technology — including incentives for businesses and households to reduce their emissions.

“We don’t have to choose between a strong economy and action on climate change,” said NSW Young Liberal president Chaneg Torres.

“The Young Liberal movement fully supports the Prime Minister and believes he is doing a really good job at the moment, he’s doing his best.

“But from our point of view as young people, we see it as particularly pertinent to us and we just want to encourage the Government to be thinking about the future generations.”

Last month, NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean broke ranks with his Liberal colleagues in Canberra, demanding more action be taken on climate change.

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