Prime Minister Scott Morrison applauded the spirit and dedication of those committing their time to help others in a Christmas message to Australia.
Flanked by wife Jenny, he acknowledged the natural disasters that have ravaged the country in over the past 12 months including the North Queensland floods, continued drought and widespread bushfires.
“Despite all of these great challenges, Australians have stood up,” he said. “Australians have shown tremendous spirit and have responded.
“This great spirit is what makes Australia the amazing country it is and at this Christmas time we give thanks, despite these terrible challenges, for the wonderful country that we’ve been blessed to live in.
“As we look forward to next year and as we celebrate this Christmas, I want to thank all of those who serve our nation.
“Serving as volunteers fighting those fires as we speak, patrolling our beaches, those who are serving overseas in our defence forces and are a long way from home and serving our nation there.”
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The Prime Minister has been savaged for his decision to take leave and holiday in Hawaii as the death toll from bushfires rises.
During this time, two firefighters were tragically killed when a falling tree caused their truck to roll.
“We think especially of the families of Andrew O’Dwyer and Geoff Keaton, who we lost in the fires recently here in New South Wales,” Mr Morrison said.
“To Melissa and Jess and all of your family, to Andrew and Geoff’s parent, we know this is going to be a tough Christmas for you, the first without both of these amazing men, and to all of those out there at the Horsley Park brigade we send our great love and best wishes.
“They are a reminder of why this great country is amazing and they are a reminder of what we’ve got to give thanks for despite these many challenges.”
Mr and Mrs Morrison extended Christmas greetings to all Australians and condolences to “those for whom there will be an empty seat at the table this year”.
“But let’s look forward to 2020,” he said. “We’re an amazing country, we’re an amazing people and 2020 is going to be another year which we demonstrate why this is the best country in the world in which to live.”