Scott Morrison photo at Tasmanian school tragedy sparks debate

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·News Reporter
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s appearance at a memorial for six children killed in a jumping castle tragedy has divided opinion.

Mr Morrison was in Tasmania on Saturday, where he paid respects to the victims of the tragedy at Hillcrest Primary School last week. He was seen laying flowers outside the Devonport school alongside his wife Jenny.

Six children are dead after a gust of wind lifted a jumping castle and the children inside fell from a height of about 10 metres.

“I want to extend our deepest sympathies to the five families in particular who have lost those precious young ones and we think also of the families of the three who are still in a terribly critical condition," Mr Morrison told journalists in Hobart before we went to the school.

"We think of the entire community that is just heaving with sorrow.

"As I said yesterday, there are no words, only prayers, for our fellow Australians in Tasmania and for the community that will carry this burden. And it will be a heavy burden. It will weigh them down."

Mr Morrison also announced on Saturday an extra $800,000 will also be made available to fund trauma counselling for those impacted.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife Jenny lay flowers outside of Hillcrest Primary School in Tasmania.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife Jenny lay flowers outside Hillcrest Primary School at a memorial for the five victims of the Tasmanian tragedy. Source: Sky News

PM accused of chasing media opportunity 

However, Mr Morrison’s appearance seemed to catch more attention than his comments or funding with people divided on Twitter over him laying flowers outside the school.

“Milking a tragedy for all he’s worth,” one woman tweeted.

Others criticised it as being a PR exercise, or a photo opportunity ahead of the election.

“This is not an opportunity for Morrison to promote himself,” another woman tweeted.

She added the PM should have left his media contingent behind.

One man called it a “dreadful election stunt”.

However, not everyone was critical of the PM’s appearance.


Tasmania reporter defends Morrison's visit

Monte Bovill, an ABC reporter based in Tasmania, tweeted there was no media opportunity or political announcements during Mr Morrison’s visit to the school.

“For everyone replying to this. You weren’t there,” he tweeted.

“There was no media opportunity, no political or campaign announcements in the northwest. The media were already at the school. You are using this to fit your own narrative. Five kids died and you make this about politics?”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a media conference in Sydney, Australia.
The PM's actions have divided opinion. Source: Getty Images

Another man tweeted it made him feel better to see Mr Morrison at the site of the tragedy.

“I guess because he reflects the whole of Australia and it showed he was there to stand by the grieving families when most of us couldn't,” he tweeted.

One woman tweeted Mr Morrison’s “politics should be irrelevant here”.

“Imagine being so hateful that you attack Scott Morrison for visiting the grieving families of those dear little children killed in Devonport,” she tweeted.

Regardless, the latest criticism of the PM shows a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” critique of his actions.

He was widely condemned over the summer of 2019 to 2020 for being absent during the bushfires which ravaged parts of regional NSW. It later emerged Mr Morrison was in Hawaii with his family.

Mr Morrison did make it to towns affected by the tragedy but suffered more criticism over a number of bizarre and somewhat awkward interactions with locals.

with AAP

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