A federal Labor frontbencher has apologised for describing Tony Abbott's work as a volunteer firefighter as a "stunt".

The Opposition Leader has been a volunteer firefighter for more than a decade, and was this morning deployed to fight fires at Nowra on the NSW south coast with the Davidson Rural Fire Service.

Mr Abbott yesterday said he would be on "standby" to help out given the fire emergency gripping large parts of the state.

Federal Housing Minister Brendan O'Connor this afternoon responded to Mr Abbott's comment on Twitter, describing it as a "#standbystunt".

Mr O'Connor later deleted the comment and said: "Apologies for any offence. I respect and acknowledge the critical work of all our volunteer firefighters including Tony Abbott."

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell took to Twitter to describe Mr O'Connor's initial comment as "unhelpful" during a fire crisis.

He said Mr Abbott helped fight fires in the Lane Cove National Park in 2004 and the local community was grateful.

Television news cameras and photographers were in Nowra this morning and filmed Mr Abbott driving one of the fire trucks.

In a statement issued this morning, Mr Abbott said he had delayed his holidays to help fight the fires.

Labor backbencher Graham Perrett has commended Mr Abbott and the other volunteer firefighters for their efforts, but added: "A lot of volunteers get up and do their work on behalf of the community everyday without putting out a press release."

But Liberal MP Jamie Briggs says there is always a lot of media interest in what Australia's political leaders are doing, especially during a bushfire crisis.

"People do like to see commitment to volunteering - not just from the community, but from their political leaders - and that's something Tony's done for a long time now," Mr Briggs told ABC News.

 

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