Kalbarri residents say Scott Morrison’s prayers welcome following PM’s “laying of hands” admission
Cyclone victims in Kalbarri embraced by Scott Morrison last month are unfazed by social media debate ignited by the Prime Minister’s confession he secretly lays his hands on people in disaster zones to pray for them.
In fact, the religious subtext behind the PM’s handshakes and hugs don’t bother locals in the cyclone-ravaged tourist town, who say they need all the prayers they can get.
The Pentecostal Christian PM told a religious convention on the Gold Coast last week he was “called to do God’s work” as Australia’s leader.
“I’ve been in evacuation centres where people thought I was just giving someone a hug and I was praying, and putting my hands on people ... laying hands on them and praying in various situations,” he said in a video widely circulated on social media.
God has, I believe, been using us in those moments to be able to provide some relief and comfort and just some reassurance.
Some Kalbarri residents were unaware of the backlash surrounding Mr Morrison’s admission.
Kalbarri Boat Hire business owner Kat Deadman declined a handshake from the Prime Minister, instead opting for a hug.
She said she had no problem with the thought he was praying for her in that moment. “Everyone’s got their beliefs. As long as they live a clean life and don’t hurt anyone, it’s about being kind to your fellow man,” she said.
Her son Lachlan, 9, shook the PM’s hand and was asked by Mr Morrison if he was scared during the cyclone. The Jehovah’s Witness, who has only just had power return to her home, said the social media backlash had passed her by.
“In Kalbarri, you’d rather know when Mrs Scotty down the road is doing scones at the bowls club than what’s happening on social media,” she said.
Retiree John Spargo, who was pictured with the PM’s hand on his shoulder during the visit, said he was too preoccupied with the clean-up to care if Mr Morrison said a silent prayer for him.
“I’m not a religious person by any means and it wouldn’t have bothered me at all,” he said.
“I didn’t notice him doing it and I don’t understand what the fuss is about. You’ve just got to get on with stuff (the clean-up), irrespective of politics. He’s being a genuine, caring person.
“That was the impression he gave me — he was concerned about the town and how it affected the people in town.”
Former Pelican Shores holiday apartments manager Juanita Illingworth-Robez, who was left without a job after the cyclone destroyed the complex, said her time spent with the PM elevated her view of him and she was unaware of any attempt he had made to pray on her, which she would not have appreciated.
“But he didn’t rush his time with us, he was at the site with us for 45 minutes and I think his visit influenced his decision to extend relief funding,” she said.
“He was neutral, there wasn’t any (touching or praying) ... and I’m very sensitive to that sort of thing so I would have noticed, he wouldn’t have wanted to try that with me,.”
Kalbarri SES commander Steve Cable said Mr Morrison showed genuine empathy towards residents who had lost everything.
“He understood the enormity of it, physically, mentally and financially,” he said.
Mr Morrison told 2GB Radio on Friday his comments suggesting he received divine inspiration to run for office were merely an expression of the fact Christians believe “whatever you do every day ... is part of your Christian service”.
He was “disappointed about how some of that (speech) has been mischaracterised” by “others who should know better”.
Labor Leader Anthony Albanese said he respected people’s spiritual beliefs “but it’s also important that we have separation of church and State”.
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