RFS firefighter from Nelligan Paul Parker sees free beers flow in


“We’ve had people ringing up from all around Australia, wanting to transfer money so Paul doesn’t need to pay for his own beers.

“A lady from Brisbane raised $150 through a GoFundMe campaign. A bloke from Adelaide rang just today and is sending $20. I suppose about $500 has turned up, and it keeps coming.”

Paul Parker and publican Joel Alvey at the Steampacket Hotel in Nelligen.

Alvey – who had also been battling fires and was in the fire truck when Parker let loose – said there should be no surprise the outburst had captured such attention.

“He only said what the rest of us were thinking,” he said.

It was a hot, dangerous day, with Nelligen under attack from the huge Clyde River fire when Parker made headlines. He and other Nelligen firefighters had battled for hours to save three houses in the village, and Parker ended up spraying down his mates’ cars and trucks so they could escape.

Back in town, he yelled from his fire truck to a 7 News camera crew: “Are you from the media? Tell the Prime Minister to go and get f—ed from Nelligen. We really enjoy doing this shit, f—head.”

NSW RFS fire fighters working to prevent a flare up from crossing the Kings Highway in between Nelligen and Batemans Bay in early January.

NSW RFS fire fighters working to prevent a flare up from crossing the Kings Highway in between Nelligen and Batemans Bay in early January.Credit:Kate Geraghty

He says his anger was sparked “because when Morrison had been asked whether [NSW Rural Fire Service] volunteers should be paid, he’d said no, because they enjoyed what they did”.

Parker, who insists he is not politically partisan, said he also remained angry that Morrison had left for a holiday in Hawaii as fires spread across large areas of Australia.

“A real man wouldn’t have left his country when it was in turmoil,” he said. “Bob Hawke wouldn’t have left, and Malcolm Fraser and John Howard wouldn’t have left, either.”

Federal Labor frontbencher Jason Clare got wind of the surge in popularity for buying the Nelligen firefighter a beer and used it in Parliament this week to declare it proved Scott Morrison had failed “the ultimate pub test”.

“In politics we talk a lot about the pub test,” Clare said.

“If you’re fair dinkum you usually pass.

“If you’re full of it, you’ll fail.”

Parker, however, isn’t taking the generosity of strangers just for himself. When he drops in to the Steampacket – a regular event – his bar tab becomes a shout for all his mates.

The Steampacket Hotel estimates it has lost $250,000 in trade over the usually busy summer months as fires and floods  put a halt to tourists.

The Steampacket Hotel estimates it has lost $250,000 in trade over the usually busy summer months as fires and floods put a halt to tourists.

“You’ve got to share things around,” he says.

Every dollar across the bar is crucial for the pub’s continued existence.

Summer traffic – on which the Steampacket Hotel relies heavily – collapsed when the Kings Highway between Canberra and Batemans Bay was closed for five weeks by fires, removing passing trade.

The Nelligen caravan park across the road, crammed with tourists in summer, a lot of them thirsty, emptied. The park was evacuated four times as out-of-control fires tore towards Nelligen, population 300.

The Prime Minister should come and talk to us. But of course, we haven’t heard from him.

Paul Parker

A few days ago, it was evacuated again. This time, it was flooded as torrential rain coincided with a king tide and the Clyde River broke its banks.

“Yes, we’re having a tough time,” Alvey says. “I suppose we’ve lost about a quarter of a million dollars this season. But we’re determined to go on.”

Parker declares he’s amazed the pub’s doors remain open.

“They’re not able to get government assistance because the building wasn’t actually impacted by fire. They lost all their trade, but they weren’t impacted? It’s ridiculous,” Parker said.

“The Prime Minister should come and talk to us. But of course, we haven’t heard from him.”

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