The government has come under further criticism for its response to the flood crisis after ADF staff were filmed taking part in a photo op in northern New South Wales.
Community frustration exploded after footage emerged that appeared to show members of the Australian Defense Force in flood-ravaged New South Wales unloading a trailer for a photo op.
Footage from northern New South Wales, filmed by a local, sparked deep anger among flood victims and contributed to growing fury at the government over what was described as lackluster support.
A dozen officers were filmed this week emptying a trailer of rubbish on the side of the road in front of an army photographer, presumably to supplement his public relations material.
“They’re filming themselves, watch them, emptying a trailer full of trash on the side of the road,” the man filming said in the video, which was uploaded to Reddit.
“That’s what’s happening, they’re filming themselves. Look at them. It’s incredible.”
The man then sarcastically told the officers, “You guys are doing a great job, that trailer isn’t going to empty, is it?” Make sure you have it filmed.”
“It’s amazing. Amazing,” he said, telling the group, “well done guys, you earn every penny.”
He joked, “Save the trailers everyone” before leaving.
His bewilderment at the scene was shared by nearly 1,000 others online, while some claimed the story was more complex than it initially seemed.
“If only this trailer was on wheels and could be moved closer to the garbage pile…maybe they could have done the job with nine soldiers instead of 10,” one sarcastic response read.
“Multiple hands make a good photoshoot[portunity]someone replied.
“The army method is to find the least effective way to accomplish the task at hand,” another wrote.
An explanation of the officers’ approach to the trash was much less grim and suggested that the trailer could not be towed, so the trash was moved to the curb for collection.
“There is a backstory to this that means something. They were manually moving the trash to the curb where it would be picked up later, as they had no vehicle to tow the trailer,” one wrote.
On Monday, the ADF defended the speed with which it responded to flooding in northern New South Wales.
Major General David Thomae said: “I think we did everything we could under the conditions we faced.
“It’s not just an ADF response, it’s local government and local emergency services who have been working very hard over the past week. We support them.
He said the ADF had been in Lismore since February 27, with more than 600 people on the ground in northern New South Wales and another 656 due to arrive on Tuesday.
Major General Thomae said the ADF rescued 113 people from floodwaters and used helicopters to rescue nearly 80 people trapped on rooftops.
Defense Minister Peter Dutton responded to the ADF’s criticism on Tuesday, ending the suggestion that his response had been “embarrassing” for Australia.
Sunrise host David Koch asked if he was ’embarrassed’ that ordinary Australians had been largely left to their own devices, forced to deliver supplies themselves via private dinghies and wade through the water to rescue their neighbours.
“It’s the Australian spirit. That’s what you and I would do for our neighbours, and that’s what people do in extremes,” Mr Dutton said.
“I’m not bothered by the way the ADF is doing. I’m not going to deal with criticism from the ADF.
He added that ADF staff had been “integrated” into existing efforts by emergency services, SES staff and council workers.
“It’s well coordinated on the pitch and I’m not going to criticize these guys and girls who are doing an amazing job,” Mr Dutton said.
Community anger has also been directed at the prime minister, who was lambasted last week after posting pictures of ADF staff helping with the cleanup and thanking them for their efforts.
“Using ADF for photo opportunities for your own Facebook page during a national emergency is a pretty low act Prime Minister,” one critic wrote on Twitter.
Many accused him of not deploying the help he desperately needed when it was urgently needed.
“Where is all the help for the flood victims. It’s chaos, no food, no water, not enough help and yet again in a national crisis you are MIA,” read one response.
Another argued that it was ‘ordinary everyday people’ who should be praised.
“They were the ones who were on the ground to support each other before the army arrived. It is our Northern Rivers communities who are the real heroes of this disaster,” they wrote.
Instagram page The Pineapple Express, a community organization for Australian veterans, hit back at harsh criticism from flood-affected communities.
NSW Liberal MP Catherine Cusack was slammed by the page after posting about ADF staff she saw at Ballina Airport in the departures area.
“It may be unfair because I did not visit the disaster I witnessed at Ballina Shire… but these five are the first ADF personnel I have seen here and regarding they are located in departures at Ballina airport,” his tweet with a photo of the members read.
The Instagram account responded by saying she should “hang her head in shame” given that she misinterpreted the situation.
The ADF personnel she saw were pilots on lunch break who flew rescue helicopters up to 12 hours a day,” the page replied.
“They’re just using the shops in the departures area to eat before they go back and keep flying.”
The ADF has been contacted for comment by news.com.au.