Fireys praised in PM’s Christmas message
BRAVE firefighters giving up time with their families to battle the blazes across the nation have been praised by the Prime Minister and Opposition leader in their annual Christmas messages.
Particular tribute was paid by both leaders to NSW volunteer firefighters Andrew O'Dwyer and Geoff Keaton who died fighting fires last week.
Scott Morrison, speaking in a video with his wife Jenny, said it had been a difficult year and would be a tough Christmas for many people.
"From the floods up in north Queensland earlier this year, to the drought that continues to ravage the country for years now, and of course the bushfires which have been raging since September," he said.
"Despite all of these challenges Australians have stood up, Australians have shown tremendous spirit and have responded.
"The spirit has been expressed in the kindness and courage and love extended from one Australian to another.
"This spirit is what makes Australia the amazing country that it is."
Mr Morrison said Christmas was a time to give thanks, despite the challenges faced.
"As we look forward to next year and as we celebrate this Christmas I want to thank all of those who serve the country," he said.
He thanked volunteer firefighters, surf life savers, defence force personnel serving overseas, emergency service workers, nurses and volunteers serving the homeless.
"I think especially of the families of Andrew O'Dwyer and Geoff Keaton who we lost in the fires recently here in NSW," Mr Morrison said.
"And to Melissa and to Jess and all of your families, to Andrew and Geoff's parents, we know this is going to be a tough Christmas for you this year, the first one without both of these amazing men.
"To all of those out at the Horsley Park Brigade we send our great love and our best wishes to you.
"They are a reminder of why this country is amazing and they are a reminder of what we have got to give thanks for despite these many challenges.
"To those for whom there will be an empty seat at the table this year, we're thinking of you as well because Christmas will be a difficult time."
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said while Christmas was a chance to spend time with families and celebrate, it was also a difficult time for many people.
"In 2019, we think particularly of those people in the community who have been fighting bushfires. We think of those empty seats at tables where people have lost loved ones," he said.
"This is the greatest country on earth. And the thing that makes it the greatest country on earth is our people. Our people are resilient. Our people are courageous. Our people are committed to each other and to their local communities.
"So, at this time in particular, a huge shout-out to those people who fought fires and done themselves, their community, and our entire nation a great deal of pride."
Mr Morrison also sent a video message to Australian Defence Force personnel serving overseas.
"I want you to know that in dedicating your lives to the service of others, to the service of our great country, there can be no greater gift that you could provide to all of us," Mr Morrison said.
He said the men and women of the ADF expressed their "love and passion for the country in a way that moves all Australians and strengthens us all".