The prime minister has lashed out at critics for playing politics as New South Wales faces its worst flooding in decades.
Anthony Albanese says the opposition compared his trip to Ukraine to a holiday “beyond contempt”.
The prime minister has faced criticism from shadow treasurer Angus Taylor and Nationals leader David Littleproud, who questioned why Mr Albanese did not return to Australia as parts of New South Wales were flooded for the fourth time in two years.
Mr. Albanese was in Europe for 10 days to take part in the NATO summit, make peace with the President of France and visit Ukraine.
Mr Taylor earlier this week slammed Mr Albanese for being “more concerned about his reputation on the world stage than … about people in New South Wales having a place to sleep.”
And on Tuesday, Nationals leader David Littleproud criticized the prime minister for his world tour, insisting that Labor “quickly threw a few grenades at Scott Morrison” for going on vacation to Hawaii during the black summer wildfires.
Mr Albanese, standing next to New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrotte in Sydney on Wednesday to announce a $1,000 flood relief payment for all affected adults and $400 for affected children, blasted the opposition for their misguided criticism.
“Some people didn’t seem to understand the new policy’s memo… about how to get things done, get things done and work together for the Australian public,” he said.
“I will note that there was a very specific criticism that said that I did not pick up the phone of Prime Minister Perrotte. I traveled around Ukraine… it was literally “Planes, trains and cars”. For national security purposes… we didn’t have any electronic equipment.
“No phones, internet, communication with the outside world for the sake of our safety, as well as the safety of President Zelensky. There is a war going on.
“Apparently, this should have been abandoned. There is a war going on that has consequences for Australia.
“I was fulfilling my obligation to go to Ukraine… If you compare it with a vacation, I just don’t find contempt.”
Mr. Albanese said that as soon as he re-entered the safe zone in Poland, he immediately called Mr. Perrotta, Emergency Minister Murray Watt and Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles.
“At that point, we already had ADF personnel deployed and were being offered faster than ever during any natural disaster in Australian history,” Mr Albanese said.
Mr. Perrotte also defended Mr. Albanese and said the state and Commonwealth governments have done very well in the face of the disaster.
“From my point of view, the federal government should balance international and domestic issues,” he said.
“But as soon as he could, he picked up the phone to call me.”
Earlier, Treasurer Jim Chalmers urged the opposition to “listen” to growing criticism of Mr. Albanese’s international diplomatic trip.
Dr. Chalmers said Mr. Albanese’s overseas trip was largely focused on clearing up the mess caused by the Morrison government.
“Angus Taylor is just as responsible for the mess we’re trying to fix,” he told ABC Radio.
“And if his argument is that we’ve been in government for six weeks or so and we haven’t corrected decades of economic mismanagement, then I think the best thing for him to do is intervene.”
Originally published as Anthony Albanese, Jim Chalmers and Dom Perrotet respond to Angus Taylor’s travel criticism