Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sensationally claimed he secretly told Labor leader Anthony Albanese he was going to Hawaii during the devastating bushfires in late 2019, only to have Mr Albanese reject the claim as a lie.
The furore over the Prime Minister’s controversial beach holiday as bushfires burned across Australia exploded in Question Time on Monday when Mr Morrison was asked to explain why his office had fibbed about the trip to journalists at the time.
“When my electorate was burning, the Prime Minister’s office told journalists he was not on holiday in Hawaii. Why did the Prime Minister’s office say that when it wasn’t true?” asked Labor MP Fiona Phillips.
In an angry response, Mr Morrison said he “can only speak to what I have said.” But he then added the startling claim that he told Mr Albanese where he was going.
“As the Leader of the Opposition will know, because I texted him from the plane when I was going on that leave, and told him where I was going and he was fully aware of where I was travelling with my family,’’ he said.
Mr Morrison was mocked for months after the trip, which he famously defended when he returned by declaring “I don’t hold a hose” during a radio interview. He ultimately cut the holiday short after his trip was revealed and apologised to voters for the secrecy.
As Question Time continued on Monday, Mr Albanese told news.com.au via a text message that what Mr Morrison was saying was untrue and that he had never told him he was going to Hawaii, simply that he was going on leave.
Mr Albanese then rose shortly after Question Time to claim he had been misrepresented.
“The Prime Minister said that, to quote him, ‘I texted him from the plane when I was going on that leave and told him where I was going,’” he said.
“Mr Speaker that is not true. On the 15th of December 2019, at 9:44pm, the Prime Minister did text me saying he was going on leave,’’ Mr Albanese said.
“He did not tell me where he was going. He said he was going with his family. I kept that text message confidential, as you do with private text messages between private phones. And on Friday, he disclosed in an interview with 2GB that he had texted me and that was the first time that became public.
“But at no stage did he tell me where he was going.”
Mr Morrison then leapt to his feet to accuse the Labor leader of politicising his trip to Hawaii.
“Where I was going was on leave! And that was the important thing,’’ he said.
“He knew I was taking leave, Mr Speaker. I told him I was taking leave. And he chose to politicise that and has done so ever since.”
Later in the afternoon, Mr Morrison rose again to clarify his initial remarks.
“I want to confirm what the Leader of the Opposition said, that in that text I did not tell him the destination of where I was going on leave with my family,” said the Prime Minister.
“I simply communicated to him that I was taking leave. When I was referring to he knew where I was going and was fully aware I was travelling with my family, what I meant was that we were going on leave together.
“I know I didn’t tell him where we were going, because that is a private matter, where members take leave. And I know I didn’t tell him the destination, nor would I.”
Mr Albanese recently referred to the text exchange during a press conference, noting that the Prime Minister had taken him into his confidence at the time, which he had respected.
“In 2019, the Prime Minister sent me a private text message that he was going on leave and that the then Deputy Prime Minister would be acting. That was on Sunday night,’’ he said.
“You might be aware, for a number of days, the Prime Minister’s office couldn’t confirm whether he was on leave or not. The Acting Prime Minister couldn’t confirm that he was the Acting Prime Minister. I didn’t know where Scott Morrison travelled. I wasn’t critical of him travelling.
“I didn’t go out and breach that private message when Scott Morrison was on holiday. And then on Friday, on the Friday of that week, Scott Morrison gave an interview on 2GB from Hawaii, in which he said, ‘Oh, I messaged Anthony Albanese, I told him what was happening’. As if I knew that he was in Hawaii.
“But I kept his confidence. I kept his confidence. Because that’s what people of integrity do.
“They have relations between people. And this Prime Minister, on a range of issues, has ducked questions, has not given straight answers, has pretended that things that were a changed position for him were positions that he had all the way along, and always seeks to blame someone else, always seeks to defer responsibility.”