Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he ‘deeply regrets’ any offence caused by his holiday in Hawaii and has cancelled his leave to rush back to Australia in the wake of the tragic death of two firefighters killed overnight.
The two firefighters died after a tree fell in front of their firefighter truck, causing the vehicle to roll. Three other members of the same Horsely Park brigade in Western Sydney were injured in the tragedy and are being treated for non-life threatening injuries.
“I express my sincere condolences and sympathies to the families of the firefighters who have so tragically been killed overnight,” Mr Morrison said in a statement.
“They were bravely defending their communities with an unmatched spirit and a dedication that will forever set them apart amongst our most courageous Australians.
“Given these most recent tragic events, I will be returning to Sydney from leave as soon as can be arranged.”
Speaking to Sydney Radio 2GB on Friday morning, Mr Morrison said he believed Australians would be “pleased” he was returning home.
“They know that, you know, I don’t hold a hose, mate, and I don’t sit in a control room.
“That’s the brave people who do that are doing that job. But I know that Australians would want me back at this time out of these fatalities. So I’ll happily come back and do that.
“Because there has been horrendous events, that has understandably caused a lot of anxiety and I deeply regret that.
In a separate statement, the Prime Minister sought to explain the circumstances of his leave and issue a public apology to voters.
For days, his office had refused to disclose his whereabouts on security grounds or even when he would return to official duties. He had planned to return to Australia on December 23.
“Over the course of the past week I have been taking leave with my family. Our leave was brought forward due to the need to cancel our scheduled leave in January because of our official government visit to India and Japan at the invitation of PMs Modi and Abe,” he said.
“I deeply regret any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time.
“I have been receiving regular updates on the bushfires disaster as well as the status of the search for and treatment of the victims of the White Island tragedy.
“The Commonwealth’s responsibilities have been well managed by the Acting Prime Minister, Minister Littleproud and Minister Payne.
“As noted, given the most recent tragic events, I will be returning to Sydney as soon as can be arranged,” he said.
Aussie tourist claims ‘enjoyed bevies’ with @ScottMorrisonMP in Hawaii in photo on left with PM making Hawaiian ‘shaka’ hand signal for ‘hang loose’. 🤟 Same board shorts & glasses PM seen wearing in photograph on right just weeks ago in Australia https://t.co/MOTVFlAdr3 pic.twitter.com/7xNQqjsFB4
— 𝕤𝕒𝕞𝕒𝕟𝕥𝕙𝕒 𝕞𝕒𝕚𝕕𝕖𝕟 (@samanthamaiden) December 19, 2019
The Prime Minister’s decision to cancel his leave follows a photograph of him emerging on Instagram featuring tourists who claimed to have shared a “a few bevvies” with him as bushfires raged at home.
“Not in my wildest dream did I ever imagine I would have the opportunity to share a few bevvies and chat about many things with the Prime Minister of Australia,” the Instagram post said.
“Contrary to belief, he’s actually a bit of a legend.”
While it’s not clear where and when the photograph was taken, the Prime Minister is wearing the same board shorts he was photographed in just weeks ago and is delivering the ‘shaka’, a Hawaiian hand gesture for ‘hang loose’.
Scott Morrison was photographed in the same pair of shorts recently.
But there were ugly scenes outside the PM’s official residence in Sydney, where a 10-year-old girl was left sobbing after police threatened to arrest her over a climate change protest.
The video, filmed by a student journalist River McCrossen, has already been viewed more than 150,000 times.
The girl, Izzy, was with her mother and father at the climate protests when she was issued with a move-on order by police.
As a NSW Police officer read the 10-year-old her legal rights, he read from a standard script on his mobile phone that included a warning that she could face arrest.
“I warn you that should you fail to comply with my direction, you may be arrested. Force may be used,” he said.
“Do you understand, Izzy?”
“Yes,” she replies.
The police officer then tells the girl, who is visibly distressed, “You need to leave now. Are you going to leave for me?” before turning to her father and saying, “Sir, are you right to leave now? Take your daughter. Thanks very much. 500 metres please. That’s urgent.”