Australian MP says bushfire victims ‘most likely’ voted for Greens

Debate about government’s climate change policies intensifies as fires rage on

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 12 November 2019 17:30
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Barnaby Joyce says New South Wales' bushfire victims 'most likely' voted for the Greens

An Australian MP has been widely condemned for saying two people who died in bushfires in New South Wales were likely Greens voters, amid a debate about the government’s climate change policies.

Barnaby Joyce, a backbencher for the National Party, was asked if the NSW government had provided enough resources to reduce the hazards of wildfires.

“They may need more resources, but they also need legislation regulations that allow them to get in there and do it in a more substantial way,” he told Sky News Australia.

“I acknowledge the two people who died were most likely people who voted for the Green party. So I’m not going to start attacking them, that’s the last thing I want to do.

“What I wanted to concentrate was on the policies, we can mitigate these tragedies happening again in the future.”

The former deputy prime minister also attacked the Greens for arguing the “spurious links” between the out of control blazes raging across the country’s east coast and climate change.

The devastating bushfires have consumed more than a million hectares of land and damaged at least 150 homes so far.

His comments were denounced by various Australian MPs, including the country’s prime minister, Scott Morrison.

“I think these [comments] are very unhelpful,” Mr Morrison told ABC.

“I’m not going to be distracted by debates happening among politicians. The last thing people in real need and urgent crisis need at the moment is hearing politicians shout at each other.”

Mathias Cormann, the country’s finance minister, told the corporation: “I don’t think these were appropriate comments in the circumstances and that is because I don’t think it’s appropriate to bring politics into this debate when people have lost their lives.”

He declined to say whether any disciplinary action would be taken.

The friends of one of the victims, George Nole, said Mr Joyce’s comments were “just salt in the wounds”.

“I don’t know what the hell Barnaby is going on about what people vote for at a time like this,” Aaron Hargreaves told the Sydney Morning Herald.

He said he had spoken to several locals who were disgusted at Mr Joyce’s comments.

“They said things you probably don’t want to print ... they’re pissed, they’re proper pissed. We’re pretty cranky with Barnaby right now, I must say.”

However, Mr Joyce told the paper he was not casting judgement on the victims, and added: “Some dweeb has misinterpreted this completely.”

He said the criticism was aimed at people who were trying to blame Greens voters.

“You cannot accuse people based on the party they’re in. It’s not the bloody Greens’ fault,” he said.

He added: ”The people who vote for a certain party [the Greens] are getting just as hurt and probably more so than other people.”

It comes amid a debate over the Australian conservative’s governments policies to address climate change, which meteorologists have said has extended the length of the fire weather season.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Sydney on Tuesday demanding more firefighting resources and urging stronger climate action.

Mr Morrison, Australia‘s prime minister and a vocal supporter of the country’s coal industry, has declined to answer questions about whether the current fires were a result of climate change.

Additional reporting by agencies

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