After recently deeming the UK too risky for Australian travellers to visit, Prime Minister Scott Morrison reportedly “spent weeks” planning a side trip to Cornwall, England, to explore his family ancestry and convict roots while he was in the country for the G7 summit last week. Now, he’s copping criticism over the “double standard”.
Australia’s international borders have remained closed for tourism purposes because of the coronavirus, with Australians only permitted to leave the country in rare circumstances, meaning many have been unable to visit friends or family abroad since early March 2020. When news broke of the prime minister’s extra curricular activities on Monday, it didn’t take long for the criticism to start flying.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the PM’s office spent weeks planning the side trip to Cornwall, which saw Morrison visit St Keverne, a small village 45 minutes south of the G7 summit site in Cornwall last Sunday. The trip was allegedly never disclosed to the media despite being on the schedule for at least a fortnight.
Speaking to 2GB on Monday morning, Morrison denied the stop-offs were a double standard, telling Ben Fordham the places he visited were all “along the way” and “just happens” to be connected to his ancestry.
“I wouldn’t describe it like that at all,” he said.
“We had to land north of London as opposed to landing down there in Cornwall because of the fog and we stopped off along the way. We had some lunch and stopped off at another location on the way. Then after the G7 on the way to the airport, we stopped off at another location, which just happens to be where my fifth great grandfather was from.
“I think it was pretty innocent and I think that’s massively overstating it.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Karen Richards, from the St-Keverne Local History Society, was tasked to assist the PM in searching for family gravesites, telling the publication she had been planning the Australian prime minister’s visit for weeks.
Twitter users were quick to jump on the PM’s claims that the tour “just happened” to stop off at places relevant to his family history, while others called the trip “an insult to everyone waiting to be reunited with their overseas relatives”.
“Scott Morrison said he stopped off somewhere which ‘just happens to be’ where his great-grandfather was from, while Simon Birmingham described it as ‘soft diplomacy’. Uh huh,” one user wrote.
Scott Morrison said he stopped off somewhere which “just happens to be” where his great grandfather was from, while Simon Birmingham described it as “soft diplomacy”.
Uh huh. https://t.co/rugnOnPbPv
— Amy Remeikis (@AmyRemeikis) June 20, 2021
While another said, “How many times does Scott Morrison have to show Australians he’s only in the job for himself before they kick him from office? Organising a side trip to learn about his family history in the UK is an insult to everyone waiting to be reunited with their overseas relatives. Gross.”
When asked by Fordham if Australians would be able to travel internationally by Christmas in 2022, Morrison said it was “too far” in the future to know.
“Oh, that’s too far away,” he said. “In 2022, I would certainly hope so. And I would hope that we can do it as soon as we safely can.”
The PM is currently in quarantine at The Lodge in Canberra.