Michael McCormack also defended the Morrison government’s decision not to meet with senior fire and emergency service leaders demanding action on climate change.
Three people have been killed and 150 homes destroyed in NSW, while there are still 47 fires burning in Queensland.
Firefighters across Sydney and NSW are bracing for “catastrophic” conditions on Tuesday, with a state of emergency declared.
McCormack said it galled him when “inner-city lefties” raised climate change in relation to bushfires.
“What people need now is a little bit of sympathy, understanding and real assistance. They need help, they need shelter,” he told ABC Radio.
“They don’t need the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time when they’re trying to save their homes.”
McCormack was not quite as dismissive of the mayor of Glenn Innes, whose regional township is in the centre of the unprecedented NSW blaze, for drawing a link to climate change.
Greens MP Adam Bandt labelled the deputy prime minister a “dangerous fool” who was putting lives at risk.
“Thoughts and prayers are not enough, we need science and action too,” Bandt told reporters.
“They’ve done everything in their power to make these catastrophic fires more likely.
“When you cuddle coal in Canberra, the rest of the country burns.”
A group known as the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action has written to the federal government twice this year to request a meeting with responsible ministers.
In April, they warned of increasingly catastrophic extreme weather events putting lives and properties at risk.
The 22 representatives wrote again in September after their first letter went unanswered.
“You do get a lot of groups which put names on their titles that quite frankly are a front for something else,” McCormack said.
“I’m not saying this particular group is, but when you are a minister you get a lot of requests and sometimes you do meet these groups and honestly all they want to do is waste your time.”
Labor senator Penny Wong said the immediate focus should be on firefighters battling the blazes, people at risk and those grieving lost loved ones.
“When we get through this, it is a responsible thing for us to focus on how we plan to keep Australians safe,” she told ABC radio.
“Warnings about a longer bushfire season and more intense fires have been on the table for a long time.”
Emergency Services Minister David Littleproud also said the climate change debate should wait.
“Let’s have those conversations in the cold, hard light of day after the event,” he said.
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