Scott Morrison responds to criticism over bushfire crisis: Bairnsdale, VIC

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has again responded to the fury directed at him from fire-ravaged communities. He also said he had apologised to a senior New South Wales Liberal minister who wasn’t informed the PM was visiting a town in his electorate.

On Sunrise this morning, NSW Transport Minister and Bega MP Andrew Constance took an extraordinary swipe at Mr Morrison, declaring he “probably gave him the welcome he deserved”.

Mr Morrison was yelled at by locals and refused a number of handshakes while visiting the ruined town of Cobargo, in the state’s south.

Speaking in Bairnsdale in Victoria, in the stricken region of East Gippsland, Mr Morrison said he had reached out to the NSW minister.

“I’ve known Andrew for a long time, and I’ve reached out to him today. Andrew, like so many in that part of New South Wales — his neighbour lost his own property there, and he’s been defending his own property there,” he said.

“He’s deeply part of that community. So I can understand how Andrew would be feeling at the moment.

“So I’ve reached out to him today, and offered that apology to him. I was under the understanding that we had made contact with him. That wasn’t the case. And that’s regretted. “But I assumed that he was otherwise occupied on that day, which would be completely understandable. But Andrew’s been through a terrible, terrible experience and ordeal, and so I totally understand how he’d be feeling.”

While visiting Cobargo yesterday afternoon, locals yelled at the PM and told him to “f**k off” back to Sydney.

“Go on, get in the car and p*ss off back to Kirribilli mate … you wanker,” one local yelled as the PM retreated from the destroyed community.

Mr Constance barely saved his own home in Malua Bay from an out-of-control bushfire.

“I didn’t even know he was coming and I haven’t had a call from him,” Mr Constance told Seven’s Sunrise this morning when asked if people elsewhere in his electorate felt the same as Cobargo.

“So to be honest the locals probably gave him the welcome he probably deserved.

“I would say this to the Prime Minister today: the nation wants you to open up the cheque book and obviously help people rebuild their lives.”

Mr Morrison said today he didn’t see the attacks as personal.

“I don’t take it 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 said.

“And I understand that, and we will seek to provide that comfort and support in whatever way we can.”

The PM said he was happy for people to direct their anger at him as it would not “distract” him.

“People are angry … and if people want to direct that at me, that is up to them. It’s not something that will distract me. It is something that I will empathise with,” he said.

“It is something that I understand. It’s not something for me to take personally. My job is to stay focused on ensuring that we have the maximum co-ordination of effort across many

states.”

Mr Morrison also confirmed he was reconsidering his trip to India, which he was due to fly out for next Sunday.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also offered to send more firefighters over, with Kiwi reinforcements expected later today.

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