There are plenty of grounds for criticism of the prime minister.
“SmoKo” Morrison’s response to the bushfire crisis has been politically tone-deaf and a perpetuation of his climate denialism. His do-nothing approach to a floundering economy is costing people jobs and risking future growth. His religious discrimination bill will entrench the capacity of religious bigots to use faith, sexuality, gender and morality to discriminate and withhold health services.
But criticism about Morrison taking a holiday this week is misplaced. Like any worker, Morrison is entitled to a holiday with his partner and family. Like any politician, he is acutely aware of the harsh impacts of political life on families, particularly of anyone who reaches a level of seniority.
The families of politicians pay the price for their being constantly available and working — particularly in the case of frontbenchers — extraordinarily long hours. Begrudging any politician spending precious time with their family is churlish and taking partisanship to an absurd degree, and Anthony Albanese is right to refuse to join the criticism of the prime minister.
The fact that much of the criticism is coming from the left, where rhetoric about the need for family-friendly workplaces and better work-life balance is usually found, adds a rich irony to the commentary.
Do the bushfires mean that Morrison should be on deck in Canberra? Despite efforts to pin the blame for under-resourcing of firefighting on the federal government, dealing with the fires is primarily the responsibility of state governments. Yes, they represent a crisis of climate denialism and a policy failure, but not the kind of disaster that requires prime ministerial attendance.
One Greens state MP says Morrison should “stick around and sort [the bushfires] out”. Quite how he would do that isn’t clear. Besides which, is there ever a good time for a politician to plan a holiday?
And true, as many Labor supporters have noted, the hypocrisy of News Corp is staggering. If a Labor prime minister went on holiday during a fire season like this, they would be savaged in headline after headline in the Murdoch rags. Mark Latham wasn’t even prime minister when he was attacked for failing to return to work in the aftermath of a foreign disaster, the 2004 tsunami.
But that’s on the Murdochs and their grubby minions and stenographers, not Morrison. Criticise Morrison’s woeful policies, but he’s entitled to share time with his family for a few days without being bagged.