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'He turned his back on me': Mum who confronted PM in fire-ravaged town speaks out

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The woman who Prime Minister Scott Morrison forcibly shook the hand of in Cobargo has fired a few barbs at the Australian leader.

The prime minister was jeered by residents as he arrived in Cobargo, in southern NSW, on Thursday with people calling him “an idiot” and telling him he was “not welcome”.

Mr Morrison was also filmed trying to shake the hand of a woman.

"How are you?" Mr Morrison asked as he reached for the woman's hand to shake it.

"I'm only shaking your hand if you give more funding to our RFS (Rural Fire Service)," she replied.

"So many people have lost their homes."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison offers a handshake to a woman in Cobargo.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison tries to shake a woman's hand on visiting the NSW town of Cobargo on Thursday. Source: Nine News

Another man shushed the woman before comforting her, footage from multiple networks showed.

That woman has been identified as local Cobargo mum Zoey McDermott.

Ms McDermott wrote on Facebook her house recently “burnt to the ground”.

“The prime minister turned his back on me,” she wrote.

According to Ten News, the mum is pregnant and has a 22-month-old daughter.

“This is like a war zone and it broke my heart,” she told Ten News.

The mum added she would have been “happy” to have a cup of tea with the PM “but that didn’t happen”.

Zoey Salucci Mcdermott is pictured.
Zoey Salucci McDermott has been identified as the woman in the video. Source: Facebook/ Zoey Salucci McDermott

‘I see it as a sense of frustration’

Mr Morrison was questioned about the encounter at a press conference in Victoria on Friday.

One reporter suggested Mr Morrison “didn’t seem” like he was supporting the people he was visiting.

“I stood there with the same lady you're referring to. We talked about what she was asking there, which was greater support for the firefighting effort in that part of New South Wales. So we talked about that,” he told reporters.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Darren Chester MP tour the Wildflower farm owned by Paul and Melissa Churchman in Sarsfield, Victoria.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Darren Chester in Sarsfield, Victoria, on Friday. Source: AAP

The prime minister added he didn’t take the attacks personally.

“I just see it as a sense of frustration and hurt and loss and anger that is out there about what is the ferocity of these natural disasters and I understand that, and we will seek to provide that comfort and support in whatever way we can,” he said.

‘I haven’t had a call from him’

Many people have criticised the PM for his visit to Cobargo and response to the angry residents.

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said residents gave Mr Morrison the unwelcome reception he deserved.

Mr Constance was scathing in his assessment of the prime minister's response to bushfires blazing across Australia, with NSW declaring a state of emergency.

"I haven't had a call from him so to be honest with you the locals probably gave him the welcome he deserved," the Liberal MP told Sunrise.

"I'd say this to the prime minister today: the nation wants you to open up the cheque books.

"I know this is tough and I know I'm on his side of politics. But the only two people who are providing leadership at this stage are (NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner) Shane Fitzsimmons and (NSW premier) Gladys Berejiklian."

Buildings destroyed by fire are seen in Cobargo, NSW, Wednesday.
A Cobargo property completely destroyed by fire. Source: AAP

The prime minister said he “can understand” how Mr Constance is currently feeling, adding he’s reached out to the minister.

“Andrew, like so many in that part of New South Wales – his neighbour lost his own property there, and he's been defending his own property there,” Mr Morrison told reporters.

“He's deeply part of that community. So I can understand how Andrew would be feeling at the moment. I was under the understanding that we had made contact with him. That wasn't the case and that's regretted but I assumed that he was otherwise occupied on that day, which would be completely understandable.”

Mr Morrison added Mr Constance has “been through a terrible, terrible experience and ordeal”.

“So I totally understand how he'd be feeling,” he said.

With AAP

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