Scott Morrison has shrugged off his run-in with an angry pensioner, saying he otherwise had a “very welcome reception” at the pub where he was bailed up on Wednesday night.
The disability support pensioner laid into the Prime Minister on an impromptu visit to a Newcastle pub on Wednesday.
In a fiery confrontation, he chastised Mr Morrison for the level of support he has provided older Australians.
The man yelled “Listen to me for a change” as he accused Mr Morrison late on Wednesday night of failing to deliver on his election promises.
“This is what you said when you got elected last time: ‘We’re going help all those people that worked all their lives, paid their taxes’,” he said.
“I’ve had a go, mate, I’ve worked all my life and paid my taxes.
“You can have a million-dollar house, you can have $250,000 in the bank, you can have negative gearing and franking credits, but a disability pensioner can’t have any income.”
On Thursday, Mr Morrison said the man – who he named only as Ray – “was very upset about a complicated case”.
“My staff met with him also, after I carefully listened to what he had to say … I can understand that he was very upset about some very significant issues that happened in his life,” he said.
“As you move around, I like hearing from people. I hear from people all the time. While some may have some very complex issues that need to be addressed, others, I must say were there last night – it was great
to see them.”
But independent senator Jacqui Lambie accused Mr Morrison of being out of touch with Australians, expressing some sympathy for the pensioner.
“People have been doing it really, really tough over the last couple of years. I can tell you, they’re on edge. They’re angry,” the Tasmanian told the Nine Network on Thursday.
“Maybe the Prime Minister should get out of his office more often and not just election time. Maybe [he] won’t be heckled as much.”
Assistant Attorney-General Amanda Stoker said she was concerned there was a “very dirty attempt to character assassinate a very good man”.
“Ever the optimist, I hope that both colleagues and competitors will behave consistently with their better values,” the Queensland senator said.
“But I also really believe that Australians have a good radar for bull and a good radar for games and that they’ll see straight through it.”
Mr Morrison has had a bruising couple of weeks, after a revelations a range of Liberal party members – including NSW Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells – had attacked his character and trustworthiness.
She accused Mr Morrison of using a rival candidate’s Lebanese background against him during a 2007 push to win pre-selection for his Sydney seat of Cook.
Mr Morrison strongly denies this but the man he ousted, Michael Towke, blames him for losing his preselection.
“At the time (Mr Morrison) was desperate and it suited him to play the race card,” he told Network Ten’s The Project on Wednesday.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells also used parliamentary privilege to brand Mr Morrison an “autocrat” with “no moral compass” and “unfit for office”.
The May federal election is due to be called within days. Quizzed again on Thursday on a likely date, Mr Morrison again remained coy.
“The election will be called when I am in a position to go to the Governor-General,” he said.
“I said we would run a term, do the job and go to the Australian people. That is when the election is due and I think we will be calling it soon.”
A May 14 election must be called by Monday, while a May 21 election must be called by April 18.