Prime Minister Scott Morrison is facing more criticism for side trips on his recent journey to Britain to be on the sidelines at the G7 – this time for a secret tour to explore his family history.
It has emerged that Mr Morrison – who sparked outrage on social media last week for visits to several Cornish pubs while in Britain – also ducked off to explore his convict roots.
The extracurricular journeys all came despite the PM repeatedly publicly stating that Britain remains too risky a destination for Australian travellers.
Last Sunday’s trip to a village about 45 minutes away from the G7 summit in Carbis Bay was not disclosed to the media, despite being on Mr Morrison’s agenda for a fortnight.
It came to light because it was reported on a local news website, CornwallLive, and has sparked more anger among Australians stranded abroad.
Kelsey May, an administrator of the Facebook group Aussies Stranded in the UK, said she understood Mr Morrison needed to travel to the G7.
“But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt people to see him then have personal time, as convenient as it might have been,” she said.
The Nine newspapers are reporting that Mr Morrison headed off to St Keverne after delivering a speech on the G7’s last day. He had a police escort on the way to the village, where his fifth great-grandfather, William Roberts, was born.
Mr Roberts was sent to Australia as part of the First Fleet.
In St Keverne, Mr Morrison met Karen Richards from the local historic society. She had been asked to research his family history and find the graves of relatives.
“I had known of his visit for about a fortnight but was unable to tell anyone about it – not even others who are also related to William Roberts that are still living and working in the village today,” Ms Richards wrote in a post on CornwallLive at the weekend.
Mr Morrison also visited Bodmin Jail, which posted on its Facebook page about a “surprise visitor” who “popped in to hear about the strong Australian connections with many inmates held at the jail”.
On Monday, Mr Morrison defended tracing his Cornish family roots and insisted Australians would not see the trip as a double standard.
“It was pretty innocent … that’s massively overstating it,” he told 2GB radio.
Mr Morrison said his plane had to land north of London because of fog and the Australian delegation stopped off at one pub on the road journey to Cornwall.
That was the Jamaica Inn, which sparked anger from grounded Australians after posting a picture of the PM with pub staff on social media.
“We had some lunch and stopped off in another location on the way,” Mr Morrison said.
“After the G7 on the way to the airport, we stopped at another place, which just happens to be where my fifth great-grandfather was from.”
Two other local inns – The Old Quay House and Three Tuns Cornwall – also posted of being excited about hosting the Australian contingent.
Three Tuns is in St Keverne, and is where the group lunched after Mr Morrison’s graveyard visit.
The PM said he “certainly hoped” Australians would be able to travel overseas by next Christmas.
He repeated his view that the COVID situation in Europe during its summer would help determine when Australia reopened its borders.
“We’ll learn a lot from that,” he said.
“If it’s not causing serious illnesses and rising hospitalisations, then that will be important information for our medical experts to look at and give us good advice about what that means for travel.”