Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended his decision to fly to Sydney for Father’s Day despite COVID-19 lockdowns, which have prevented others from similar travel.
“In politics, people like to take a lot of swings at you, and you get pretty used to it, but sometimes those jabs can be low blows,” Morrison told Sky News Australia on Tuesday.
Morrison described comments by former national opposition leader Bill Shorten as a “cheap shot” after he criticised the prime minister’s judgement, describing them as appalling.
“It’s a bit of a cheap shot to be honest. I mean Bill knows full well what these rules are … in fact he took advantage of them,” Morrison said. “He went home and spent the last three weeks there rather than being in parliament.”
Morrison said that Shorten knows the prime minister needs to travel and that some secure documents and secure discussions needed to be held in person.
“So he understands all of that. So frankly it’s a bit of a cheap shot. It’s just cheap politics,” the prime minister said.
Addressing accusations that he tried to cover up the travel by positing a months-old family photo to social media on Father’s Day, Morrison said those suggestions were cynical.
He said he joined a South Australian Liberal function online on Saturday from his office at his official Sydney residence, Kirribilli House.
Morrison took an air force jet from Canberra’s national capital to his hometown on Friday and spent the weekend in Sydney before returning to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) on Monday where he attended cabinet’s national security committee.
The ACT government granted Morrison an exemption to return to Canberra, restricting his movements to his official residence, The Lodge, and to Parliament House.
But Shorten said the prime minister made a mistake with so many Australians unable to see family on Father’s Day because of state border closures.
“It’s not that he doesn’t deserve to see his kids, but so does every other Australian,” the former opposition leader told the Nine Network.
“When people are doing it tough, you’ve got to do it tough too.
“You can’t have one rule for Mr Morrison and another rule for everyone else. I just think it’s appalling judgment,” he said.
Travel between Sydney and Canberra is banned unless an exemption is granted, with New South Wales and the ACT both under strict stay-at-home orders.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he understood people’s frustration at what looked like a “trip home over the weekend.”
But he said it was reasonable to grant exemptions for the prime minister to attend meetings of the cabinet’s national security committee.
“The prime minister’s role is unique in the nation,” he told reporters in Canberra, noting that the ACT government had a role, as the seat of the government, in continuing the operation of the Australian Parliament.
When pressed, he said, “I’m not the prime minister’s keeper. I don’t offer political advice to the prime minister, and he probably wouldn’t listen even if I did.”
Barr then went on to say, “It’s not a good look.”