Scott Morrison 'Deeply Regrets Offence' Over Family Holiday, Will Return To Sydney ASAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced he is returning from leave with his family to deal with the bushfire crisis.
Morrison has been under fire for quietly taking an overseas family holiday as Australia endures record temperatures and unprecedented fire conditions.
"Over the course of the past week I have been taking leave with my family," he said in a statement, explaining that the leave was brought forward due to official government visits to India and Japan in early 2020.
"I deeply regret any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time.
"I have been receiving regular updates on the bushfires disaster as well as the status of the search for and treatment of the victims of the White Island tragedy," he said.
He confirmed he was "happily" jetting back to Sydney as soon as possible.
"I don't hold a hose, mate, and I don't sit in a control room. That’s the brave people who do that are doing that job. But I know that Australians would want me back at this time out of these fatalities. So I'll happily come back and do that," Morrison told 2GB's John Stanley.
Morrison also confirmed he was in Hawaii with his two daughters and wife, Jenny. He told 2GB that he surprised his daughters with the trip to Hawaii so his family could spend some time together.
"... I know there are lots of dads and mums out there who work hard all year and try and treat their kids this time of year and that's what I was just trying to do. It's just unfortunate that it’s come at such an awful time," Morrison said.
His return comes in the wake of a devastating day in NSW.
Two volunteer firefighters were killed following a crash south of Sydney on Thursday.
Their Rural Fire Service truck is believed to have hit a tree and rolled off the road near Buxton --a small village in the Macarthur Region.
Meanwhile, another three firefighters suffered serious burns while fighting the Balmoral fire near the Bargo area.
A 36-year-old man and a 56-year-old man suffered face and airway burns and will be airlifted for treatment. Another female crew member was treated for smoke inhalation and minor burns.
Up to 40 structures may have been destroyed overnight in the state's bushfire emergencies, with authorities looking to confirm the figure later today.
Morrison issued another statement on Friday, sending his condolences and sympathies to the families of the firefighters.
"They were bravely defending their communities with an unmatched spirit and a dedication that will forever set them apart amongst our most courageous Australians," he said.
"Their sacrifice and service saving lives and saving properties will be forever remembered. I wish those injured all the best in their recovery.
"Our hearts go out to their families, friends and colleagues who have been working tirelessly beside them, particularly during this Christmas period," he continued.
Labelling the conditions "horrendous", Morrison acknowledged there were "difficult days ahead".
Catastrophic fire conditions have been forecast for South Australia as the state's intense heatwave continues. December heat records are set to tumble, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting temperatures could reach a scorching 46 in some parts of the state.
It's set to reach 43 degrees in Melbourne today, as Victoria continues to swelter through its own heatwave. Mildura in northwest Victoria is expected to hit 47 degrees on Friday, which would be the hottest December temperature ever recorded in Victoria.
There are currently at least 50 fires burning in Western Australia and seven fires burning at an advice warning level in Queensland.
"We wish all of those putting themselves in harm’s way for all of us, all the best. Stay safe, stay together," Morrison said.
"Know that Australians are deeply grateful. To Australians living in fire-ravaged regions, please heed the warnings of the authorities, and stay safe".