Scott Morrison defends walking off on distraught mum who lost home in bushfire

Australian Associated Press

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he walked away from a distraught Cobargo resident because there were other bushfire-affected people who wanted to speak with him.

The prime minister was filmed on Thursday approaching a young woman in Cobargo and forcing her to shake his hand before walking away when she demanded better funding for the NSW Rural Fire Service.

The woman, Zoey Salucci-McDermott, later said the interaction broke her heart.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison offers a handshake to a woman in Cobargo.
Scott Morrison offers a handshake to a pregnant mum who had lost her home in the Cobargo bushfires, he walked away when she demanded more funding. Source: 9News

Mr Morrison on Saturday was asked why he turned his back on the 20-year-old pregnant mother.

"There were quite a number of people who were there, and other people were wanting to talk to me as well, which is what I went and did," the Liberal leader told reporters in Canberra.

"What she spoke to me about was the need for more local fire brigade support. That's what she raised with me when I was talking to her and I went on to meet a number of other people," Mr Morrison said.

Scott Morrison (left) at a press conference on Saturday and Zoey Salucci McDermott (right) who lost her home in the bushfires
Scott Morrison (left) defended walking away from distraught mum, Zoey Salucci McDermott (right) because 'other people were wanting to talk to me as well'. Source: AAP/Facebook

The prime minister said Ms Salucci-McDermott wanted to ensure there was greater RFS support "and I have already relayed that on to the RFS".

Father and son Robert and Patrick Salway died in Cabargo while defending their home earlier this week.

Mr Morrison on Saturday stressed he was "the first senior leader to go into Cobargo" after the firestorm and he argued whoever walked into the town was going to feel anger and fury.

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

The prime minister – who's been heavily criticised for going on holiday to Hawaii while Australia burned – said there was a "mixed response" to his visit and some people were incredibly pleased to see him.

"These arms have given a lot of hugs in the last three months," he said.

"In fact, they've given a lot of hugs over the last almost year-and-a-half in which I've been prime minister."

A GoFundMe page has been organised to help the pregnant mother who lost her home in the Cobargo bushfire on New Year’s Eve.

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