Acting Prime Minister, Michael McCormack flew into a loud and passionate climate protest under skies thick with bush fire smoke at Merimbula today.
There to open the new terminal building at Merimbula Airport, with Bega Valley Shire Mayor Kristy McBain and State MP Andrew Constance, the Nationals leader was mobbed, heckled and questioned by around 40 protesters.
Shortly into his opening remarks Mr McCormack was rushed by a number of people chanting slogans and carrying placards.
The Acting PM’s security detail was quick to respond, man handling a number of protesters out of the new terminal building and locking the doors behind them. Some of those wrangled away from Mr McCormack were visibly shaken and upset by the experience, suggesting the physicality of the response was over the top as they were shown the door.
“They’ve got a right to protest, they’ve got a right to wave their placards,” Mr McCormack says.
“They can shout all they like. I hope they are on their lunch break, if they want to do that during their lunch break and then go back to productive work – that’s fine.”
Quizzed by the national and local journalists gathered Mr McCormack brushed aside suggestions that Prime Minister Scott Morrison had deserted Australia during a bush fire crisis by choosing to holiday with his family in Hawaii.
“Everybody deserves a holiday, he’s worked hard this year, he’s achieved great things,” the Acting Prime Minister says.
Mr Morrison’s office has said he will return to Australia as soon as possible to resume duties as Prime Minister; however, details were not being disclosed for security reasons.
Asked about the future of agriculture and a report from government commodity analyst ABARES that shows some annual farm profits have fallen by 35 per cent, or $70,900 a year because of Australia’s increasingly warmer and drier climate, Mr McCormack’s response was upbeat.
“We are working to build agriculture from the $60 billion sector it is to a $100 billion sector and we will go on building that with the right policies,” he says.
Click play to join the discussion at today’s media conference…
LIVE with Acting PM Michael McCormack MP at Merimbula Airport
Posted by About Regional on Tuesday, 17 December 2019
Bega Valley Shire Councillor and President of Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action, Jo Dodds, presented the Acting Prime Minister with a letter.
“We have members who lost their homes on Black Saturday, the Canberra fires, the Tathra and District fire, Yankees Gap and more. We are homeowners, firefighters, retirees, business people and farmers,” the letter reads.
“We want you to lead right now, with sympathy and understanding and real assistance. We need you to stand up for us, your Australian communities at risk from the climate emergency. We need you to understand what’s happening, why it’s happening, and ACT NOW.
“Mr McCormack, please don’t wait until the fire is at your own door before you recognise what is fuelling this situation. We invite you to work with us towards serious reductions in greenhouse emissions, adequately resourcing fire and emergency services, assisting communities to become more resilient in the face of drought, fire, flood, storm and coastal erosion.”
Protesters chatting along the fence line as Mr McCormack bordered his Air Force jet were left unconvinced that the Nationals leader recognises the influence climate change is having of the tense bush fire situation across the state.
More on the Merimbula Airport upgrade tomorrow.