Deputy prime minister slams 'inner-city lunatics' over bushfire debate

The deputy prime minister has launched a full-throated attack against "raving inner-city lunatics" linking climate change to bushfires in Queensland and NSW.

Michael McCormack also defended the Morrison government's decision not to meet with senior fire and emergency service leaders demanding action on climate change.

Three people have been killed and 150 homes destroyed in NSW, while there are still 47 fires burning in Queensland.

Firefighters across Sydney and NSW are bracing for "catastrophic" conditions on Tuesday.

On Monday, a state of emergency was declared in NSW.

Mr McCormack said it galled him when "inner-city lefties" raised climate change in relation to bushfires.

"What people need now is a little bit of sympathy, understanding and real assistance. They need help, they need shelter," he told ABC Radio.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack speaks to the media during a press conference at the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Deployment Centre in Warana, Queensland on Sunday. Source: AAP
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack says linking the bushfires to climate change for political gain is "disgusting". Source: AAP

"They don't need the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time when they're trying to save their homes."

He labelled the act of linking climate change to the bushfires for political gain as “disgraceful” and “disgusting” and he would continue to call it out.

Emergency Services Minister David Littleproud also criticised people wanting to "weaponise" climate change during the fires.

Climate change request ignored

A group known as the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action has written to the federal government twice this year to request a meeting with responsible ministers.

In April, they warned of increasingly catastrophic extreme weather events putting lives and properties at risk.

The 22 representatives wrote again in September after their first letter went unanswered.

"You do get a lot of groups which put names on their titles that quite frankly are a front for something else," Mr McCormack said.

A firefighter attempting to repel flames near Torrington, in the Glen Innes region on Sunday. Source: AAP
A firefighter defends a property in Torrington, near Glen Innes on Sunday. Source: AAP

"I'm not saying this particular group is, but when you are a minister you get a lot of requests and sometimes you do meet these groups and honestly all they want to do is waste your time."

Labor Senator Penny Wong said the focus should be on firefighters battling the blazes, people at risk and those grieving loved ones.

"I understand people are anxious about this," the former climate change minister told ABC radio.

"When we get through this, it is a responsible thing for us to focus on how we plan to keep Australians safe.

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"Warnings about a longer bushfire season and more intense fires have been on the table for a long time."

Mr McCormack insisted the government was doing “the responsible and right thing” to tackle climate change but at the same time wasn’t prepared to “shut down” the coal industry which provides 54,000 jobs at the demand of the Australian Greens.

"[Greens co-deputy leader] Adam Bandt is very quick to really point the finger. What really galls me, and I think what galls a whole host of other Australians, is the fact that he actually blames Scott Morrison and the government for the loss of those peoples' lives,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison comforts 85-year-old bushfire evacuee Owen Whalan of Half Chain road in Koorainghat at Club Taree Evacuation Centre in Taree, New South Wales on Sunday. Source: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison comforts 85-year-old Owen Whalan of Half Chain road in Koorainghat who was evacuated from his home during the bushfires. Source: AAP

Mr Bandt responded by insisting Mr McCormack and Mr Morrison “bear some responsibility” for the early start to bushfire season, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

"This government has had every opportunity to minimise the risk of these catastrophic fires and instead it has chosen to pour fuel on the fire," the Greens MP said.

Climate change talk ‘inappropriate’, Gladys Berejiklian says

On Monday NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian insisted now is not the time to talk about the impact of climate change as firefighters continue to battle to save lives and homes.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the weekend dodged questions over whether the unprecedented fires were linked to climate change while Ms Berejiklian added a terse "honestly not today" when reporters raised the issue.

She maintained that line on Monday, saying it was an "inappropriate" time to talk about it.

"I thought it was inappropriate that people were trying to talk about climate change yesterday when people wanted to stay alive," Ms Berejiklian told the Seven Network.

The premier was subsequently pressed on the issue again on ABC TV when told residents in fire-hit areas were concerned about global warming.

"There's no doubt that there's extreme weather conditions which have contributed to the fire conditions, conditions we've not seen before," she said.

"There's no doubt we're seeing hotter temperatures and longer summers and more extreme weather conditions but our first and foremost priority is to keep people alive at this stage."

It is climate change, says mayor of fire-ravaged town

Glen Innes Severn Council mayor Carol Sparks – whose home was severely damaged in a bushfire that killed two people – said the prime minister's response when asked about climate change was "unbelievable".

"It's climate change, there's no doubt about it. The whole of the country is going to be affected. We need to take a serious look at our future," she told AAP.

In response to Mr McCormack’s stance, Ms Sparks told the ABC: "It's not a political thing - it's a scientific fact."

"Of course it's not relevant at the moment when people's houses are burning and you've lost lives and you've lost friends and you've lost family," the mayor said.

"But the overall thing is we are so dry in this country – we haven't had rain for years in some places. We need to look at what we're going to do about that in the future.

"To deny climate change is, to me, a very ill-informed and uneducated way of looking at things."

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