Anthony Albanese says it’s “beyond contempt” that the opposition would compare his trip to Ukraine to a holiday.
The Prime Minister has faced criticism from the likes of shadow treasurer Angus Taylor, who questioned why Mr Albanese had not raced back to Australia as parts of NSW flooded for the fourth time in two years.
Mr Albanese was in Europe for 10 days to attend the NATO summit, to make good with the French President and to visit Ukraine.
Mr Taylor earlier this week blasted Mr Albanese for being “more concerned about his reputation on the global stage than … making sure people in NSW have a place to sleep”.
Mr Albanese, standing alongside NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet in Sydney on Wednesday to announce flood payments of $1000 for all impacted adults and $400 for impacted children, slammed the opposition for their misguided criticism.
“Some people apparently didn’t get the memo about the new politics … about getting things done and achieving outcomes and working together in the interest of the Australian public,” he said.
“I note that there was a very specific criticism that said that I didn’t pick up the phone to Premier Perrottet. I travelled into Ukraine … it was literally ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’. As a matter of national security … we didn’t have any electronic equipment.
“No phones, no internet, no communication with the outside as a matter of keeping us safe but also keeping President Zelenskyy safe. There is a war going on.
“Apparently, that should have been dismissed. There is a war going on that has implications for Australia.
“I was fulfilling a responsibility I believe I had of travelling to Ukraine … To compare that with a holiday I just find beyond contempt.”
Mr Albanese said as soon as he had re-entered a safe zone in Poland he immediately called Mr Perrottet, Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt and Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles.
“At that point in time, we had ADF personnel already deployed and offered quicker than has ever occurred in any natural disaster in Australian history,” Mr Albanese said.
Mr Perrottet also defended Mr Albanese and said the state and commonwealth governments had been working extremely well in the face of the disaster.
“From my perspective, the federal government needs to balance international concerns and domestic concerns,” he said.
“But as soon as he could, he picked up the phone to call me.”
Earlier, Treasurer Jim Chalmers called for the opposition to “pull their head in” over mounting criticism of Mr Albanese’s international diplomatic trip.
Dr Chalmers said Mr Albanese’s overseas trip had largely been focused on fixing the messes caused by the Morrison government.
“Angus Taylor is as responsible as anyone for the mess we’re trying to fix up,” he told ABC Radio.
“And if his argument is that we’ve been in government for six weeks or so and we haven’t cleaned up a decade of economic mismanagement, then I think he’d be best served as pulling his head in.”