Prime Minister Scott Morrison has brushed off criticism of his controversial whirlwind trip to Sydney for Father’s Day.
Mr Morrison accused former Labor leader Bill Shorten of a “cheap shot” and “cheap politics” after he described the PM’s judgment as appalling.
The tit-for-tat came after it emerged that Mr Morrison took a Royal Australian Air Force jet from Canberra to his home city on Friday and spent the weekend in Sydney before returning to the ACT on Monday.
Flight records show a taxpayer-funded Dassault Falcon 7X jet – a private plane operated by the RAAF – flew from Canberra to Sydney and back again on Saturday afternoon. Another Dassault made the same trip early on Monday.
The flights cost taxpayers $6000.
Mr Morrison’s office has confirmed the PM’s weekend trip, which took in Father’s Day. It said he had to securely attend a meeting of cabinet’s national security committee, for which he had to return to Canberra.
Travel between Sydney and Canberra is generally banned, with NSW and the ACT both under strict stay-at-home orders. However, travel into NSW from the national capital is allowed.
Mr Morrison required an exemption to return to Canberra, which ACT health authorities granted. His movement is restricted to The Lodge and Parliament House for 14 days.
“In politics, people like to take a lot of swings at you and you get pretty used to it, but sometimes those jabs can be low blows,” Mr Morrison told Sky News on Tuesday.
He said suggestions he had tried to cover up the travel by posting a months-old family photo to social media on Father’s Day were cynical.
The photo was taken from the launch of i4Give Day in January, in commemoration of the four children from the Abdallah and Sakr families who were killed in a car crash in Sydney.
“Being a dad is a special gift that we are given in life. It is a great blessing in our lives. On the day this photo was taken of our family together earlier this year I was reminded of just how precious that gift it is,” Mr Morrison wrote alongside the photo.
The PM said he joined a South Australian Liberal function online on Saturday from his office at Kirribilli House.
Mr Shorten believes Mr Morrison made a mistake, with many Australians unable to see their loved ones on Father’s Day because of border closures.
“It’s not that he doesn’t deserve to see his kids, but so does every other Australian,” the former opposition leader told the Nine Network.
“When people are doing it tough, you’ve got to do it tough too.
“You can’t have one rule for Mr Morrison and another rule for everyone else. I just think it’s appalling judgment.”
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said people were understandably frustrated with Mr Morrison’s travel.
“It’s not really a particularly good look,” he said.
But he said it was reasonable to grant exemptions for the Prime Minister to attend meetings of the national security committee of cabinet.
“I’m not the Prime Minister’s keeper. I don’t offer political advice to the Prime Minister and he probably wouldn’t listen even if I did,” he said.
Federal Labor MP Luke Gosling tweeted a picture while quarantining in the Northern Territory after returning home following last week’s parliamentary sitting.
“Happy to be doing my part at Howard Springs after being in Canberra for parliament,” he said.
“Sure, I missed Father’s Day with my family but hey, we’re all in this together right?”
NSW had another 1220 local infections and eight deaths on Tuesday as authorities brace for a peak in numbers next week.
The state government will trial linking vaccination status to the check-in app used to enter venues from October.
Victoria had 246 cases for a second consecutive day, equalling the highest increase of the outbreak.
There were 19 more cases in Canberra.
Nationally, almost 36.43 per cent of the population aged 16 and above has been fully vaccinated while 63.16 per cent has had a single dose.