Richard Marles defends PM’s travel schedule as hypocrisy takes off

Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles has defended Anthony Albanese’s travel schedule as he continues a diplomatic blitz.

The Prime Minister was back at it on Wednesday and holding meetings at the Pacific Islands Forum in Rarotonga the day after he had hailed a new chapter in previously troubled relations with China.

Marles came to the PM’s defence after some commentators and the Opposition portrayed his travel commitments as excessive or indulgent.

“The Prime Minister is doing is profoundly important for the nation’s economy,” the acting leader said.

“Since coming to power, one of the commitments that we made was to attempt to stabilise our relationship with China.

“The outcome of that is there for all to see.”

Albanese hit the ground flying after winning last year’s election; he travelled to Tokyo following his swearing-in for a critical security summit.

In the Cook Islands this week, the PM has scheduled three days of talks with Pacific leaders expected to focus mainly on climate change.

He has made 15 international trips since then, visiting 18 countries, including an early trip to Paris to repair relations with France, which became severely damaged under Scott Morrison after he allegedly lied about a multi-billion-dollar submarine contract.

That compares to the 29 international trips taken by Morrison during his three-and-a-half years in office, a period that included the pandemic and curtailed travel.

As The Age noted, in his first year in the job, Albanese took one trip fewer than Morrison.

But the Opposition has persistently tried to tag the Prime Minister with the nickname “Airbus Albo”.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has suggested the PM had been “hanging out on the red carpet” like an international socialite uninterested in the business of government.

But Dutton has just travelled to India at the invitation of a Liberal Party member and factional ally from the north-west suburbs of Sydney, who founded a politically partisan organisation called the India Australia Strategic Alliance.

When it comes to making easy criticisms about a prime minister’s itinerary, hypocrisies have often abounded from the opposition benches.

Sky News host Peta Credlin’s program has harshly criticised the prime ministers’ trips this week, including suggestions that they have lacked substance or been taken to “rack up credits”.

“Airbus Albo” is an attempted riff on the nickname Kevin “747” Rudd, pushed hard by Credlin’s former boss Tony Abbott, who regularly accused the former Labor PM of seeking out the limelight on the international stage.

In his first year in office, Abbott promptly jetted off on the same number of trips Rudd had made (and visited many fewer countries than Albanese). 

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