Footage has emerged of Prime Minister Scott Morrison telling residents on Kangaroo Island it was fortunate nobody had died in the blaze that ravaged their communities and killed two locals.
The video, released by the ABC, shows the Prime Minister being corrected by residents, before he claimed to have been referring to firefighter deaths.
Pilot Dick Lang, 78, and his son, Adelaide surgeon Clayton Lang, 43, died in the Kangaroo Island bushfires last week after spending two days fighting the flames.
The pair were returning to their family when they got caught in the blaze.
Quietly talking to a small group of Kangaroo Island locals during his visit to the community on Wednesday, Mr Morrison said: “Well thankfully, we’ve had no loss of life”.
“Two. We’ve lost two,” one person reminded the Prime Minister.
“Two. Yes two, that’s quite right. I was thinking about firefighters firstly,” Mr Morrison replied.
A spokesperson for Mr Morrison denied that the Prime Minister forgot that two people had died, telling The New Daily he was “referring to no loss of life of firefighters, as they were discussing the fire-fighting efforts.
“He was aware of the two deaths and met with one of the relatives of those who were killed while on the Island,” the spokesman said.
“The PM noted he was aware of this in his response and has previously expressed condolences for the devastating loss of life on Kangaroo Island.”
The spokesman said the PM’s comments came days after his attendance at the funeral of RFS volunteer Andrew O’Dwyer and visiting the family of RFS volunteer Sam McPaul, who was also killed, in Holbrook yesterday.
During his Kangaroo Island visit, Mr Morrison urged the nation’s tourists to continue holidaying and announced a mental health package for bushfire victims.
Australian Defence Force psychologists have been deployed across the country to help victims in fire-ravaged areas.
The Prime Minister confirmed Health Minister Greg Hunt was working on a mental health package.
Federal Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud and the head of the newly-established bushfire recovery agency, Andrew Colvin, are expected to visit the Victorian fire-affected communities of Tumut and Sale on Thursday.
Mr Littleproud has indicated he’ll announce a bushfire support package for small businesses, including interest-free loans of up to $500,000 that are repayment-free for two years.
Twenty-six people have been killed across Australia, millions of hectares have burned and thousands of homes destroyed this bushfire season.
Firefighter organisations have called for a federal royal commission into Australia’s bushfires, days after Mr Morrison said he’d consider one.