A grief-stricken friend of one of the people killed in NSW’s “catastrophic” bushfires has savaged former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce for comments he made about those who had died.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Joyce said three people killed in the fires were “most likely people who voted for the Green party”.
George Nole, 85, from Northern Rivers, died in his car near Wytaliba over the weekend. Following Mr Joyce’s comments, friends of Mr Nole spoke out in disgust.
“Everyone is pretty emotional at the moment, but Barnaby’s comments are just salt in the wounds,” Aaron Hargreaves told Nine Newspapers on Tuesday afternoon.
“I don’t know what the hell Barnaby is going on about what people vote for at a time like this.”
Mr Hargreaves added that others he had spoken to in the community were similarly outraged.
“They said things you probably don’t want to print ... they’re pissed, they’re proper pissed," he told the news outlet.
“We’re pretty cranky with Barnaby right now, I must say.”
The Prime Minister also criticised Mr Joyce for his comments, calling them "unhelpful".
Scott Morrison urged his colleagues to “take it down a few notches" and said all politicians should stop bickering over the link between climate change and natural disasters.
"There have been a lot of provocative comments made over the last few days from all sides of the debate and I find it very unhelpful," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
"The last thing that people in an urgent crisis need at the moment is hearing politicians shout at each other.
"There is a time and a place to debate controversial issues and important issues, right now it's important to focus on the needs of Australians who need our help."
Following widespread backlash to Mr Joyce’s remarks, the embattled politician denied he was attacking those who had died or the Greens Party.
Mr Joyce told Nine Newspapers that he wanted to wanted to "punch the f--king lights out" of those people who had misinterpreted his remarks.
"You cannot accuse people based on the party they’re in,” he said. “It’s not the bloody Greens' fault. They’re the ones at Wytaliba who all got wiped out.”
‘You should be ashamed’
Earlier on Tuesday Mr Joyce stirred controversy while blaming the minor party for increasing the threat of bushfires.
"I acknowledge that the two people who died were most likely people who voted for the Green party, so I am not going to start attacking them," he told Sky News.
"That's the last thing I want to do. What I wanted to concentrate on is the policies that we can mitigate these tragedies happening again in the future."
Mr Joyce doubled down on disputed claims the fire service had conducted insufficient hazard reduction burns this year as a result of opposition from Greens councils.
He also criticised Greens MP Adam Bandt for demanding an end to coal production.
"To make these spurious links - that a policy change would have stopped the fire - is so insulting and just completely beyond the pale," Mr Joyce said.
Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally slammed his remarks during a Senate estimates hearing.
"How does he know who they voted for and why does it matter? They're dead; they died in a bushfire. Isn't that enough?" Senator Keneally said.
The Greens Larissa Waters asked Finance Minister Mathias Cormann about Mr Joyce's "vile" comments during Senate Question Time.
Senator Cormann, responding on behalf of the prime minister, said the comments were not appropriate.
"We believe that it is not an appropriate time to bring politics into this debate when people have lost their lives and while these same fires continue to burn," he told parliament.
"Equally, the time to have policy discussions is not in the middle of an operational response."
Mr Joyce's remarks are the latest in an increasingly bitter stoush between the Nationals and Greens over the cause of the bushfires.
On Monday, Nationals leader Michael McCormack attacked "raving inner-city lunatics" for linking climate change to the fires.
In return, the Greens labelled the deputy prime minister a "dangerous fool" who was putting lives at risk.
Greens senator Jordon Steele-John branded major party politicians "arsonists" for supporting the coal industry.
His incendiary spray on climate policy came as catastrophic fire conditions gripped NSW.
"You are no better than a bunch of arsonists - borderline arsonists - and you should be ashamed," Senator Steele-John told the chamber.
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