Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack has urged climate change protestors camped outside Scott Morrison’s Kirribilli residence to stop “wasting your time”.
The Nationals leader is still running the country while Mr Morrison remains overseas at an undisclosed holiday location, believed to be Hawaii.
Defending Mr Morrison’s “well-deserved” holiday on Thursday as he visited the NSW Rural Fire Service headquarters to be briefed on the state of emergency declared by the NSW government, Mr McCormack said the PM was getting regular fire updates while he is overseas.
But he urged protesters camped outside Kirribilli, the PM’s official Sydney residence, to cease and desist.
“Go and do something productive: Go and donate your time to Meals on Wheels and something like that. The fact is, the PM is not there. He is having a well deserved holiday,” he said.
“Those people who are shouting and screaming, go and help someone out in need. Do a good turn rather than shouting and screaming and holding up placards that not always the words are spelt correctly. He’s entitled to a holiday. The PM takes a week off, he is entitled to that.”
Ten people including a NSW Greens MP were arrested at the “camp-out” at Kirribilli House.
Greens MP David Shoebridge was among activists outside the official residence on Thursday demanding urgent action amid unprecedented bushfires.
NSW Police said nine adults and a child had been arrested for disobeying a police direction to move on.
— River McCrossen (@RivOMac) December 19, 2019
It’s not confirmed when Mr Morrson will resume his day job, despite a state of emergency being declared on Thursday by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian as bushfires, air pollution and a heatwave lay siege to the state.
Mr McCormack said he would be acting PM until Christmas eve.
Received a briefing this morning on the current fire situation across NSW from @NSWRFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.
It’s going to be a very tough afternoon for our full-time & volunteer firefighters who are putting their lives on the line to protect homes & property. pic.twitter.com/UA0lhSAgqx
— Michael McCormack (@M_McCormackMP) December 19, 2019
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has been careful not to criticise Mr Morrison for wanting to spend time with his family at Christmas. But he also said voters “will make their own judgment”.
“All of these are a matter for the judgment of the Prime Minister,” he said. “I haven’t been critical of his decision. I have said that people will make their own judgment about that. And he has to make those decisions.”
— School Strike 4 Climate (@StrikeClimate) December 19, 2019
Mr Albanese also urged consideration of support or tax breaks for volunteer firefighters.
“As we can see all around us, these bushfires are not ‘business as usual’,” he said.
“This is a devastating time. And I want to pay tribute and thank all those firefighters, whether they be permanent, or whether they be volunteers, for their extraordinary efforts that they are making to keep their fellow Australians safe as well as saving property.
“There have been requests made now for some period of time, for the government to have a policy, whether it be through taxation, whether it be through a special grant, whether it be through special leave entitlements, to look after people who have been in the field now, not for weeks, but for months.
“They still have to buy food for their family. Scott Morrison, when this was raised with him, said that they wanted to be there fighting fires. The truth is that no one wants to be fighting fires.”