Scott Morrison’s infamous trip to Hawaii during the Black Summer bushfires is again raising eyebrows in Canberra, with Labor claiming to have caught the Prime Minister in a lie over texts to Anthony Albanese as he escaped Australia at the height of the crisis.
The Opposition Leader claimed an answer that Mr Morrison gave in Parliament on Monday in defence of his controversial holiday was “nonsense”, as Labor again peppered the PM with questions about his track record on honesty.
“The Prime Minister did text me, saying he was going on leave. He didn’t tell me where he was going,” Mr Albanese said.
It followed a series of questions in Monday’s question time, as Labor asked about Mr Morrison’s previous comments on electric vehicles and the vaccine rollout. But it was an unexpected callback to the PM’s family holiday to Hawaii in 2019 – which his office initially kept under wraps, and was first uncovered by The New Daily – that set off claims of mistruths from Labor.
“When my electorate was burning, the Prime Minister’s office told journalists he was not on holiday in Hawaii,” said opposition backbencher Fiona Phillips, from the southern NSW seat of Gilmore.
“Why did the Prime Minister’s office say that when it wasn’t true?”
In 2019, Mr Morrison’s office initially refused to confirm whether the PM was actually on leave or still working, where he was, or who was acting as Prime Minister. TND reported at the time that the PM’s office insisted that claims he was holidaying in Hawaii were “wrong”.
No media statement was initially made – as is the usual custom – to formally notify the public that then-Nationals leader Michael McCormack was acting Prime Minister.
Mr Morrison gave a short answer in response to Ms Phillips’ question on Monday, claiming Mr Albanese was aware of his travel.
“As the Leader of the Opposition will know, because I texted him from the plane when I was going on that leave, and told him where I was going and he was fully aware of where I was travelling with my family,” the PM said.
That response set off puzzled looks on the Labor benches. While Mr Albanese has spoken of that text message previously, he said he was not informed of Mr Morrison’s movements or his overseas travel.
After question time, Mr Albanese rose to clarify, again stressing that he was never told Mr Morrison was going to Hawaii. Mr Albanese said he received a text from the Prime Minister at 9.44pm on December 15, 2019, in which he claimed Mr Morrison said only he was taking leave.
“The PM said that, to quote him, ‘I texted him from the plane when I was going on that leave and told him where I was going’. That is not true,” Mr Albanese said.
“The Prime Minister did text me, saying he was going on leave. He didn’t tell me where he was going. He said he was going with his family.”
“At no stage did he tell me where he was going.”
Mr Albanese said he had kept a copy of the text message in his records, but had previously kept it to himself because it was confidential and private.
It was a not-so-veiled dig at the controversial leaking of text messages between Mr Morrison and French president Emmanuel Macron, over the nuclear submarines clash.
Mr Albanese’s explanation set off howls of outrage from the Labor benches in Parliament, but Mr Morrison quickly gave a clarification of his own – claiming he had been misinterpreted.
“Where I was going was on leave,” Mr Morrison said.
“[Mr Albanese] knew I was taking leave, I told him I was taking leave, and he chose to politicise that, and has done so ever since.”
Mr Albanese could be seen protesting and retorting from his seat.
But then nearly an hour later, Mr Morrison returned to the podium in Parliament and gave a further explanation – confirming that he didn’t tell Mr Albanese where he was going.
“I simply communicated to him that I was taking leave. When I was referring to ‘he knew where I was going and was fully aware I was traveling with my family’, what I meant was, that we were going on leave together,” the PM said.
“I know I didn’t tell him where we were going, because Mr Speaker, that is a private matter where members take leave and I know I didn’t tell him the destination, nor would I. Nor would he expect me to have told him where he was going.
“I simply confirmed to him that I was taking leave with my family, and he was aware of that, at that time.”
In his own follow-up, Mr Albanese told Sky News that Mr Morrison’s explanation was “nonsense”.
“He did say he was going on leave. He didn’t say he was going overseas,” the Labor leader said.
“I did find it extraordinary it wasn’t divulged in a normal way that he was on leave. That’s where this problem comes from.”
“The problem for this Prime Minister is that he has a character trait where he says whatever is convenient at the time, regardless of what the facts are.”