GIPPSLAND MHR has called on Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to “demonstrate some maturity” and apologise to Victorians for his “insensitive” remarks about the impact of the coronavirus on the state.
Mr Joyce has been accused of trying to divide the nation when he told News Corp journalist James Campbell that he “couldn’t really give a shit” about Melbourne’s pandemic challenges.
Mr Joyce’s snub was in response to a question about whether the nation needed to move on from the idea of having zero COVID-19 cases.
In the interview, Mr Joyce had waxed lyrical about what was happening in other parts of the country.
“We’ve got record exports of coal. Record exports of beef. But we look at Melbourne, and go, you can almost smell the burning flesh from here,” he told the journalist.
But Mr Chester described his parliamentary colleague’s comments as “offensive and dismissive”, and has hit back on social media.
“Apart from the fact that I don’t even know what he was trying to say, as a proud country Victorian, Mr Joyce doesn’t speak for me and his comments were divisive and unnecessary,” he said.
“We do care about the plight of our city friends and family as much as we care about our country friends and family.
“When Melbourne endured months of lockdowns, it hurt us all.
“As restrictions have eased, we’ve welcomed Melburnians back to Gippsland, just as we appreciated their economic and moral support during our drought, bushfires and floods.
“It is so ‘old school’ to attempt to build a divide between ‘city and country’ when so many of us regularly travel between the two locations; enjoy time with family and friends in both locations; and want to see our whole state of Victoria prosper as we recover from the pandemic,” Mr Chester wrote.
“Mr Joyce should do the decent thing, admit he made a mistake and just apologise.”
Tension has been growing between the pair since Mr Joyce promoted his supporters and dumped opponents such as Chester in last week’s Cabinet reshuffle.
At a press conference after the reshuffle, Chester said he intended to re-contest his seat under the Nationals banner, but conceded he had “been screwed over by the National party twice in the last three years”.