Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has been involved in a bruising exchange on live TV over the use of the Liberal Party logo on an official coronavirus vaccine announcement.
Mr Hunt accused ABC Breakfast News co-host Michael Rowland of “identifying with the left” after he was quizzed about last week’s use of the logo on a federal government announcement about the vaccine rollout.
“You seem to be the most exercised of any person in the Australian media about this,” he said to Rowland.
“There’s nobody who’s watching you that don’t identify you as the left. You should be open about that. I’m open about my origins and, in fact, I ran as an elected representative.”
Mr Hunt attached the Liberal Party logo to a social media post last Thursday announcing the Morrison government had signed a deal for an extra 10 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine.
Rowland asked him why he had done so, given taxpayers had paid for the vaccines. That triggered the exchange:
Mr Hunt: “I know you have strong views … we predicted that you seem to be the most exercised of any person in the Australian media about this.
Rowland: “No, I don’t, I’m asking why.”
Mr Hunt: “I was elected under that banner, multiple members across multiple parties do that.
“I’m a very proud member of that party with a great heritage and tradition in Australia and that’s part of the Australian democratic process.
“There’s no problem with identifying entirely appropriately within the rules, the origins and heritage of that banner under which we were elected by the Australian people.”
Rowland: “Who paid for the vaccines?”
Mr Hunt: “I know this is an issue for you. In many ways, you identify with the left.”
Rowland: “No, no, minister, I find that offensive.”
Mr Hunt: “Come on, Michael. There’s nobody who’s watching you that doesn’t identify you as the left. You should be open about that. I’m open about my origins … I’m bemused but I did predict to people that Michael Rowland would spend 50 per cent of this interview on this topic.”
Rowland: “It just struck me as odd – I asked the same question about the Labor government’s, a party political logo attached to an Australian government announcement.”
Mr Hunt: “I win the bet with my office that you would spend 50 per cent of this interview on that topic.”
Later Rowland posted a video clip of the exchange to social media, and also defended himself.
“I don’t identify with the left,” he wrote.
“My job as an ABC journalist is to hold all sides of politics to account.”
It is not the first time the Morrison government has been accused of politicising its response to a crisis.
Early in 2020, the Prime Minister posted a video to social media outlining the Coalition’s response to the summer bushfires.
The promotional video mentioned the deployment of Australian Defence Force personnel, and carried an official authorisation from Scott Morrison.
ADF chief Angus Campbell admitted was “discomforted” by the video.
Labor seized upon the comments to accuse Mr Morrison of turning the inferno into an opportunity for political advertising, which the PM flatly denied.