Prime Minister Scott Morrison has quickly abandoned a meet-and-greet in a bushfire-ravaged NSW town after angry locals verbally abused him.
The prime minister on Thursday visited the Bega Valley township of Cobargo, which was engulfed by flames on Tuesday morning.
Three people died and others lost homes, businesses, livestock and pasture when the fire hit the community.
“How are you?” Mr Morrison asked, as he reached for a woman’s hand to shake it.
“I’m only shaking your hand if you give more funding to our RFS (Rural Fire Service),” she replied.
“So many people have lost their homes.”
Another man shooshed the woman before comforting her, the footage from multiple networks showed.
“We need more help,” she said, as Mr Morrison walked away.
A group of residents later yelled at the prime minister.
“You won’t be getting any votes down here buddy.”
“Go on, p**s off.”
“You’re not welcome.”
“Nah, you’re an idiot, mate. You really are.”
One woman, leading a goat, said Mr Morrison controlled the funding and her community had been forgotten.
“This is not fair. We are totally forgotten down here,” she said,
“Every single time this area gets a flood or a fire we get nothing.
“If we lived in Sydney or on the North Coast we would be flooded with donations and emergency relief.”
Mr Morrison and natural disasters minister David Littleproud soon left the showgrounds.
Disastrous attempt by Australian PM Scott Morrison to console victims of wildfires pic.twitter.com/GzFHEOGQGu
— Rohit Kachroo (@RohitKachrooITV) January 2, 2020
“I’m not surprised people are feeling very raw at the moment,” the prime minister later told media.
“That’s why I came today – to be here, to see it for myself, to offer what comfort I could. But you can’t always.”
Mr Littleproud soon after announced disaster relief payments would be extended to bushfires survivors in the Bega Valley.
Payments of $1000 per adult and $400 per child can be claimed through the Department of Human Services.
“This is for people whose home has been severely damaged or destroyed, who’ve been seriously injured or who’ve lost a family member,” the minister said.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Morrison defended his government’s response to the crisis saying he wouldn’t allow state and federal governments “to be tripping over each other in order to somehow outbid each other in the response”.
“What is needed is the coordinated response that these agencies planned for in circumstances like this,” he told reporters in Sydney.
At the May 2019 election, Labor’s Mike Kelly retained the marginal seat of Eden-Monaro.
Almost half of Cobargo locals’ primary votes went to Mr Kelly, 33 per cent went to Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs and 14 per cent went to the Greens.