Australia’s Flood Victims Won’t Be Voting for Scott Morrison

But they don’t fancy their options.
Scott Morrison with some local kids
Photo by Darren England / Getty Images

You’re reading VICE Australia’s weekly lead-in to the federal election. Progressive or conservative, they’ve all got a reason to play the game – shouldn’t you know enough to talk about it at the pub?

“He isn’t a hairdresser, you know,” one Murwillumbah local told VICE. “He isn’t a welder, he isn't whatever else he has pretended to be on TV. He definitely isn’t a leader.”


“He” is Prime Minister Scott Morrison, an incumbent heading into the final stretch of a federal election campaign among the least-trusted Australian Prime Ministers of all time, according to Tuesday morning’s Newspoll. In it, Morrison registered the lowest levels of trust in an Australian Prime Minister in Newspoll’s history. 

Among those who trust him least are a growing number of Australians who have come to bear the brunt of Australia’s climate inaction. The victims of climate-induced disasters, like the floodwaters that displaced thousands across Queensland and NSW just over a fortnight ago, have become an unserved voter base. 

In Australia, there are hundreds of thousands of them. And they don’t have a short-term memory.

In fact, dozens of residents from across the northern rivers in NSW told VICE that Morrison’s approach to climate change, disaster prevention, and disaster response spending will be front of mind when they head to the booths to vote at the federal election in May.

They’ve had enough. Like residents of fire-ravaged towns such as Cobargo, where Morrison had to forcibly shake the hands of “Black Summer” bushfire victims in 2020 because they hated him so much, the flood victims of more recent memory are resigned to the fact that the Morrison government isn’t one that represents them. 


During the space of 16 days, the Prime Minister managed to politicise federal disaster support not once, but three times (maybe more). The earliest, really, was a smattering of photos posted to his personal Instagram on March 3, that pictured Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel – to no fault of their own – undertaking a Commonwealth marketing exercise which pictured them shifting mud and mopping floors in Lismore, while locals were retrieving lifeless bodies and leading the city’s recovery efforts.

Just days later, as community volunteers were left to LARP as “logisticians” offering directives to ADF forces, people living in flood-devastated towns like Mullumbimby, and others across the Byron shire, were dealt another blow: During a brief visit to Lismore, Morrison announce extended disaster relief payments worth $2,000 – just not to flood victims in Labor-held electorates.

Labor MPs were quick to accuse Morrison of trying to use flood recovery funding as a sweetener for Nationals voters in and around Lismore in the run up to the election, leaving those in the nearby Byron Shire, Ballina and Tweed local government areas, which have also been pummelled by recent flooding, with nothing.

The response from flood victims excluded from the relief, which they say was “fuck all” to begin with, was a rain bomb of epithets so violent even VICE won’t publish them (for fears our lawyers will abandon us in the throes of an avalanche of defamation suits). Resentment for the Prime Minister blankets the region – and its residents are ready to see the back of him.


After residents across the northern rivers thought they had seen the worst of it, Morrison re-entered the frame. This time, from Perth in Western Australia, where he was accused of prioritising his election campaign over signing off on a flood relief package reported to be worth about $1.4 billion co-funded by the NSW government. State officials from his own party were seething.

“We’re just standing around here like idiots with our arms crossed, while thousands of people have just lost their entire lives, and are sleeping in fucking tents,” one NSW government official told VICE on Thursday.

“We have no idea what’s going on. We’re literally just sitting here waiting for the feds. We’re desperate to announce it, but I can tell you, it isn’t going to happen today. And, of course, we’ll be the ones who cop it.”

Even though residents across the region would be happy to see Morrison lose his office, they aren’t optimistic about their options.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese is the obvious alternative, given recent pledges made by the Labor leader to mobilise a considerable portion of the government’s $4.7 billion dormant Emergency Response Fund and spend a further $200 million every year on disaster prevention protocols. But, even then, they aren’t convinced he’s their man.


Flood-affected locals of towns from across the region were quick to point out that they’ve seen it all before. Eventually, they expect, it will come to a point where whoever does assume Australia’s top job will find a way to deflect responsibility for responding to climate disasters back to state leaders, as Morrison has for so long, and former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull did before him

Why, they ask, would Albanese be any different? 

Trust was running low in these regions long before they were devastated by the deluge that pillaged their homes in the final hours of February. 

This is a population of Australians that feels it has been undeservedly ostracised for the better part of a decade, and unfairly persecuted through the years of the pandemic. They feel like they’ve all been “disregarded”, labelled “hippies” or “anti-vaxxers” or “junkies”, demonised by way of COVID-19.

“If anything, this whole experience has shown these communities that they don’t need to be governed,” said Russ Berry, a Byron shire community leader who has been lending his around-the-clock support to towns like Mullumbimby, Woodburn, and pretty much everywhere in between. 

“There was already a lot of resentment for the government up here before all this. You know, we would have [COVID] outbreaks up here, and the federal government would respond almost instantly. It would be like a ‘Two days later, and the ADF is up here handing out masks’ kind of thing,” he said. 

“But, major flooding? ‘Sorry, you guys will have to wait six days, good luck’.

Follow John on Twitter.

Read more from VICE Australia.