'Disappointed and frustrated': Fire boss slams Scott Morrison over bushfire announcement

The promise of military support for Australia's ongoing bushfire crisis came as a shock to some authorities who have voiced their disappointment in the federal government's lack of communication.

NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons welcomed news from Prime Minister Scott Morrison of up to 3000 army reservists, but added he only found out through media reports.

"I was disappointed and I was frustrated on one of our busiest days," Mr Fitzsimmons said on Sunday of Saturday's announcement.

He has since spoken with the prime minister's office.

"They apologised that in hindsight they could have done better with communicating that,” he said.

NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says he found out through the media the prime minister deployed 3000 army reservists on "one of the busiest days". Source: AAP
NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says he found out through the media the prime minister deployed 3000 army reservists on "one of the busiest days". Source: AAP

Victoria's Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp also confirmed he had received no official notification before the announcement.

"I picked up something informally that we thought something was going to happen around reservists," he told the Nine Network on Sunday, adding he was welcoming of the news.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was told of the prime minister's announcement before it was made.

A spokesman for Mr Morrison said state leaders were informed ahead of the commitment being made public.

The prime minister has also defended a video posted on the Liberal Party's twitter account detailing the government's bushfire response, after it was labelled "shameless" and a breach of political advertising rules.

Chief of the Australian Defence Force Angus Campbell reacts during a press conference on the governments' bushfire response at Parliament House in Canberra. Source: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Chief of the Australian Defence Force Angus Campbell reacts to the government's announcement amid the bushfire crisis. Source: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

The much-criticised video, authorised by Mr Morrison and posted on Saturday, described the government's deployment of reservists.

It includes details of defence ships and aircraft that have been deployed along with funding allocated for more firefighting craft, volunteer firefighters and those who lost homes or incomes.

The Liberal Party also posted details of the government response on its social media channels.

NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian during a press conference at Rural Fire Service (RFS) Headquarters in Sydney, January 5. Source: AAP Image/Paul Braven
Gladys Berejiklian during a press conference on Sunday. Source: AAP

The Australia Defence Association, a non-partisan public-interest watchdog, accused the government of breaching rules around political advertising.

"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," the association tweeted.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd also expressed outrage.

"On a day we have catastrophic fire conditions, in the midst of a genuine national crisis, Morrison, the marketing guy, does what? He releases a Liberal Party ad! He is no longer fit to hold the high office of prime minister," Mr Rudd tweeted.

Mr Morrison took to Twitter to defend the video late on Saturday, saying it was a legal requirement in Australia to include an authorisation on all video messages used by MPs on social media.

"The video message simply communicates the Government's policy decisions and the actions the Government is undertaking to the public," he posted.

"The same practice is rightly employed by the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party. This is required and standard practice in Australia."

The prime minister has faced criticism for not acting sooner to bolster the nation's firefighting capabilities, and for going on holiday to Hawaii during the crisis.

Mr Morrison said the federal government had respected the states' bushfire response for months before it became clear a national response was needed.

The prime minister also said he would continue to offer hugs to those who wanted them even if he was abused.

"Whoever wants one, whoever wants to shake the hand, whoever wants to flip the bird … bring it on," he said.

"People are in different frames (of mind), some people need a hug. You just roll with it, you've still got to go out there … people do want to see you."

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