State of tension: ScoMo’s navy call

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is looking at deploying a naval vessel in NSW and having it on standby, as a contingency, for emergency evacuations in case NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian requests it.

While Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has readily made use of the ADF to help nearly 1000 stranded locals and tourists evacuate from Mallacoota, the NSW Government has knocked back countless offers of naval support from Canberra.

RFS advice, provided to Ms Berejiklian, has been that it the safest way for people to evacuate from the south coast is via the Princes Hwy, Princess Hwy.

Apart from evacuations, a naval asset can also help with fuel supplies and provisions of food and water.

Scott Morrison tours bushfire damage yesterday. Picture: AP
Scott Morrison tours bushfire damage yesterday. Picture: AP

There is frustration in Canberra that the NSW Government has painted a rosier picture of the situation on the ground than is the reality, particularly when it comes to fuel and power supplies and how the evacuations are unfolding.

This has lead to a reticence on the Federal Government's part to intervene.

At Cabinet on Monday, it is likely the Prime Minister, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and other senior ministers will discuss the option of deploying naval support in NSW and having it on standby, as a contingency, should Ms Berejiklian decide to accept the offer.

The Daily Telegraph understands the Prime Minister has already been contemplating this, in case there are road closures and immediate evacuations are required from the south coast.

The offer of naval vessels have been made both formally and informally, including in numerous discussions between federal ministers and the NSW Government.

The ADF has embedded navy, Army and Air-Force brigadiers in the NSW Government's RFS headquarters since November 1.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian at NSW Rural Fire Service Headquarters in Sydney. Picture: AAP
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian at NSW Rural Fire Service Headquarters in Sydney. Picture: AAP

They have assisted with rescue operations and helped deliver supplies to evacuation centres and communities cut off from roads.

The Prime Minister's office declined to comment, but Mr Morrison confirmed naval vessels were ready and waiting during his Thursday press conference.

"We have a number of naval assets here in NSW that have been assessed for how they can be tasked and to put them in a state of readiness," he said.

"They haven't been called upon by the states.

"The naval assets that, in particular, Victoria has requested they are in place."

Mr Morrison has been heavily criticised for his handling of the bushfire crisis from his decision to holiday in Hawaii to his perceived lack of empathy for those affected by the fires.

There's a brawl brewing between the state and federal government with NSW acting Emergency Services Minister Andrew Constance said Mr Morrison received "the welcome he deserved" when he was snubbed and attacked by locals in Cobargo.

"The only two people who are providing leadership in this state at the moment are Shane Fitzsimmons and Gladys Berejiklian, we just need to follow their lead," Mr Constance said.



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