PM defends ‘shameful’ bushfire ad
Scott Morrison has spoken out after he was slammed for tweeting a short clip spruiking the Federal Government's latest measures to help deal with the bushfire crisis.
The 50-second video, authorised by the Liberal Party, describes the Morrison government's plan to combat the fires, while upbeat music plays in the background.
It was posted a few hours after the Prime Minister announced a deployment of 3000 ADF reservists, and a $20 million investment to lease four additional firefighting aircraft.
We’re putting more Defence Force boots on the ground, more planes in the sky, more ships to sea, and more trucks to roll in to support the bushfire fighting effort and recovery as part of our co-ordinated response to these terrible #bushfires pic.twitter.com/UiOeYB2jnv— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 4, 2020
The video has copped heat online, with Twitter users accusing the Morrison government of using the bushfires as a marketing stunt.
Wow. A self-promotional commercial with cheesy elevator music? This is one of the most tone-deaf things I’ve ever seen a country’s leader put out during a crisis. Shameless & shameful. https://t.co/ISgYEtlsb7— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) January 4, 2020
Speaks to the marketing background. The fires have been a crisis for months, but it took a media crisis for Morrison to act. https://t.co/52VlqttfG9— Richard Cooke (@rgcooke) January 4, 2020
1) Party-political advertising milking ADF support to civil agencies fighting bushfires is a clear breach of the (reciprocal) non-partisanship convention applying to both the ADF & Ministers/MPs. 2) Also cliche-ridden. 3) Its "defence force", not "Defence Force". #auspol #ausdef https://t.co/RlepHHbIx9— Australia Defence Association (@austdef) January 4, 2020
A few hours after tweeting the video, Mr Morrison came out defending it, saying it "simply communicates the Government's policy decisions".
He added, "the same practice is rightly employed by the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party. This is required and standard practice in Australia".
It is a legal requirement in Australia to include an authorisation on all video messages used on social media by Australian MPs. The video message simply communicates the Government’s policy decisions and the actions the Government is undertaking to the public.— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 4, 2020
The same practice is rightly employed by the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party. This is required and standard practice in Australia.— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 4, 2020
Mr Morrison was also blasted after social media users noted a prominent 'Donate' button on the Liberal Party website page that focused on the bushfires.
The button linked to a page to raise funds for the Liberal Party itself, which some said was misleading.
People should be aware that the prominent DONATE button in the link the PM has posted with his bushfire ad on FB is raising funds for the LIBERAL PARTY and NOT bushfire relief. pic.twitter.com/9aav1trL5N— Matt Burke (@matttburke) January 4, 2020
The Liberal Party removed the donation link a few minutes after tweeting above. Here’s where the donation link was sending you.— Matt Burke (@matttburke) January 4, 2020
It appeared to ask people to support their bushfire plan with a donation to the Liberal Party. pic.twitter.com/02pLiPxTVF
The Donate button has since been removed.
The latest controversy over Mr Morrison's response to the bushfire crisis came as it was announced the PM's planned trip to India had been cancelled.
The Prime Minister will now stay in Australia in early January to deal with the continuing fire situation.
Mr Morrison and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on Friday via phone after which it was announced the planned trade and defence talks between the two countries would be postponed to "a mutually convenient time later in the year"
Mr Morrison has been plagued by criticism of his response to the fires.
On Thursday, in the NSW town of Cobargo, he was harangued by furious locals.
Footage taken on the ground showed him taking the hand of 20-year-old mum Zoey Salucci-McDermott, even as she told him she didn't want to shake his hand unless he boosted funding for the Rural Fire Service.
Ms Salucci-McDermott, a young mum from Cobargo, was one of the many locals to lose everything as the out-of-control Badja Forest Road bushfire destroyed much of the town on December 31.
She has a 22-month-old girl and is pregnant with her second child.
Criticism also came from members of Mr Morrison's own party. NSW Transport Minister and Bega MP Andrew Constance took a swipe at Mr Morrison, declaring he "probably gave him the welcome he deserved".
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".
NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has also said he was "disappointed" that Mr Morrison's proposal to send 3000 defence force troops to the bushfire zones was not discussed with him beforehand.