Australia’s newly elected left-wing Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has rejected criticism he’s spending too much time overseas and neglecting the country he was chosen to lead, pleading Tuesday he really “hasn’t had a day off in a very long period of time.”
He spoke at an impromptu press event after touching down from a NATO Summit in Spain that came with additional side trips to France and Ukraine tacked on to the nine-day trip.
Albanese returned to Australia via a quick stopover in Italy and before heading to Fiji next week for the Pacific Islands Forum.
During his many overseas absences – which overall amount to a third of his time in office – vast sections of Australia’s most populous state of NSW have been devastated by flooding, with a state of emergency declared in some parts as flood waters drive people from their homes.
Some 50,000 people have been forced to leave and seek shelter as a result of the deluge.
Since his election triumph on May 21, Albanese has made three foreign forays on his prime ministerial jet transport. That involved him flying more than 55,000km on trips to Japan, Indonesia, the UAE, Spain, France, Poland and Ukraine.
His first, to Tokyo for the Quad Security Meeting, was just hours after he took office, as ABC News reported.
He then made first official state visit to Indonesia. A bike ride with his counterpart was included for the benefit of traveling media.
I was honoured to share a bike ride with President @jokowi through the palace gardens this morning. It was a privilege to have such a personal and enjoyable tour of the magnificent grounds. pic.twitter.com/1z95nhnqyj
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) June 6, 2022
Albanese’s next venture took in the NATO summit, even though Australia is not a member of the group, along with a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and a stop in Kyiv to stand and be photographed alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Several conservative opposition members questioned Albanese’s frantic international schedule, with Shadow Immigration Minister Dan Tehan describing the trips as “concerning.”
“What we’re seeing from Mr Albanese is very much a focus on everything international and we’re starting to see serious drift when it comes to incredibly important domestic issues, like energy, like skills shortages, like these floods we’re now confronting on the eastern seaboard,” Tehan said on Monday.
The Labor Party leader rejected the allegations of dereliction of duty at a media session hastily convened on the tarmac of Perth International Airport.
“I have attended the Quad leaders meeting the day after [being sworn in after the election]. That wasn’t a decision of mine. That was a decision of the former prime minister to hold the election on May 21,” Albanese said.
“I attended the NATO summit. It was important that Australia be represented there it was important that we deal with the relationship with France and Europe, and I believe my visit to Ukraine was important to show solidarity.
“We can’t separate international events from the impact on Australia and Australians, and those people might like to say which of the events I’ve attended on behalf of Australia that I shouldn’t have attended.”
Albanese took umbrage at accusations he spends more time flying abroad than attending to his local duties.
“I have not had a day off in a very long period of time,” he complained. “If people want to argue that I’m not working hard then they can argue that case.”
Albanese is due to visit flood-affected areas of NSW on Wednesday.