Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he was “very happy” to be met by the ambassador to France and his partner last month, despite a report suggesting the incident led to the ambassador offering his resignation.
Fairfax reported a “bizarre incident” occurred when Mr Abbott arrived in Paris on Anzac Day.
It said ambassador Stephen Brady was on the tarmac with his long-term partner, Peter Stephens, when the Prime Minister’s travelling party sent an instruction that Mr Stephens should remain in the car.
The arrival was not a public event.
The ambassador reportedly refused and following the incident, offered his resignation to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
His resignation was not accepted.
The Prime Minister’s office did not deny the incident took place, but said in a statement: “The Prime Minister was very happy to be met by ambassador Brady and his partner when he arrived in Paris last month.”
The ABC reported it was protocol for an ambassador’s partner or spouse to be part of a welcoming party when the prime minister is travelling with his or her spouse.
But Margie Abbott did not travel with the Prime Minister to Paris.
In a statement, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said: “I sincerely hope this isn’t true.”
“Australians deserve an explanation from Tony Abbott and if it’s true, ambassador Brady and his partner deserve an apology,” Mr Shorten said.
However, Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Mr Abbott has a lot of respect for the ambassador and it may have been a case of “protocol”.
“I certainly don’t think it would be sinister,” he told ABC’s Radio National on Tuesday.
“There may be issues around protocol, but I doubt the story is what people are trying to make it out to be, because the Prime Minister would have a great deal of respect for Stephen Brady and no doubt would have been very happy to meet his partner as I understand he was.”
“In fact, the Prime Minister knows Stephen Brady very well and no doubt has met his partner Peter before.”
Mr Frydenberg said he had been a good friend of Mr Brady for “many years” and praised him as being “fantastic and loyal”.