Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is facing intense backlash from many of his own constituents this week after the leader took advantage of his position to skirt COVID-19 lockdown measures.
What are the details?
Morrison traveled to New South Wales over the weekend in a private jet to visit family on Australian Father’s Day even as millions in the country remained in lockdown and were unable to visit out-of-state family members, the New York Times reported.
The prime minister spent time in Sydney before returning to Canberra to partake in a national security meeting, an action which critics immediately labeled as an example of double standards.
Yet instead of owning up to the blunder, Morrison defended the move in an interview published Tuesday, telling Sky News that while he understood people’s frustration, his trip did not violate any lockdown rules.
Health authorities reportedly approved Morrison’s trip due to his unique role as an “essential worker.” Politicians in the country have been permitted to bypass certain public health measures in order to conduct official business.
What has been the reaction?
Though Morrison’s trip may have been technically valid, it was certainly not a wise public relations move. After news broke about the trip, Australians took to social media to denounce the prime minister’s hypocrisy.
“One rule for all the other dads separated by border closures and one rule for the PM!” wrote one user.
“What a disgrace of a leader,” added another.
“True leadership is hard. Sometimes it means putting country before family,” wrote Labor MP Andrew Leigh. “Whether it’s holidaying in Hawaii during bushfires, visiting UK pubs, or popping interstate on Father’s Day, Morrison often struggles to make the sacrifices the job demands.”
“Scott Morrison took a private jet to see his kids over father’s day while the rest of Australian families suffered through [one] the worst lockdowns on the planet,” another commenter jousted, adding, “Top bloke.”
Labor opposition MP Bill Shorten criticized Morrison for exercising “appalling judgment.”
“It’s not that he doesn’t deserve to see his kids, but so does every other Australian. And I think when your people are doing it tough, you’ve got to do it tough too,” Shorten said. “You can’t have one rule for Mr. Morrison and another rule for everyone else.”
In his interview with Sky News, Morrison called Shorten’s criticism a “cheap shot.”
“Well, 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. He went home and spent the last three weeks there rather than being in parliament,” the prime minister noted.
It’s not clear at this point whether Morrison’s lines of defense will prevail. The leader is already in hot water with constituents for allegedly mismanaging the country’s vaccine rollout and keeping draconian lockdown measures in place.