Firefighters hit out at Aussie PM over bushfire response

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 05 2020 10:59 AM

Firefighters keep a watchful eye on a fire threatening homes along the Princes Highway near in Milton, Australia January 5, 2020. Tracey Nearmy, Reuters

BATEMANS BAY, Australia -- Australian firefighters -- from top brass to weary volunteers -- hit out Prime Minister Scott Morrison's handling of the bushfire crisis Sunday, as strains from the months-long fight began to show.

Firefighter Paul Parker, 57, whose sweary television tirade against Morrison has gone viral Down Under, told AFP he was "absolutely appalled" by the government in Canberra and "particularly Scott Morrison."

Parker slammed Morrison's assertion that thousands of exhausted volunteer firefighters wanted to be there, in language showing how raw emotions have become. 

"You're a dick mate -- if you were ever in the field to see what we go through, you've got no idea, man. Government's got no idea."

He said firefighters were "putting their lives at risk" to tackle the blazes. At least three firefighters have died in the field since the crisis began in September.

"That's how much we enjoy it mate -- putting our lives at risk. I do it for my local community, I do it for the township of Nelligen, and the people of Australia.

"That's what I do it for. I don't do it for you, Scott Morrison, I don't do it for any of you pricks in government."

The head of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service also lashed out Sunday, saying it was "very disappointing" he heard through the media about Morrison's decision to call up 3,000 military reservists to help his forces.

Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told 2GB radio that Morrison had shown a lack of "fundamental professional courtesy" during a "very busy day" saying the episode was "not good enough."

Earlier this week a firefighter in the field had refused to shake Morrison's hand when approached.

Despite the snubs and vocal criticism of Morrison, there are a range of political views among the corps of firefighters that is tens-of-thousands strong.

The Prime Minister brushed off that and other criticism Sunday.

"There has been plenty of criticism, I've had the benefit of a lot of analysis on a lot of issues. But I can't be distracted by that. The public, I know are not distracted by that," he claimed.

"There has been a lot of blame being thrown around. Now is a time to focus on the response that is being made. 

"Plenty of people have blamed me, people have blamed the Greens, people have blamed... who knows?... it doesn't help anybody at this time."