Australia

Scott Morrison compares Hawaii holiday and taking an 'extra plumbing contract' instead of picking up kids

The prime minister appeared on Sunrise to defend his government's response to the bushfire crisis. Source: AAP

The Prime Minister was forced to cut a holiday in Hawaii short after widespread criticism of his decision to take leave during a bushfire emergency.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has compared his decision to go on a family holiday to Hawaii during a bushfire emergency to parents choosing to take an "extra plumbing contract" instead of picking up their kids on Friday afternoon. 

Mr Morrison returned to Australia on Saturday evening after mounting criticism over his absence and the death of two NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers forced him to cut his trip short.

Appearing on Seven's Sunrise on Monday morning, the prime minister said he had opted to take the holiday, which was planned seven weeks earlier, in an attempt to be a good father to his two young daughters.

"We all seek to balance our work life responsibilities and we all try and get that right and we can all make better decisions on occasion," he said.

"Whether it's on a Friday afternoon and you are deciding to take that extra plumbing contract and you said you were going to pick up the kids or something at my level. These are the things you juggle as parents."

Mr Morrison added that the fires had been raging since September and listed the affected places that he and his wife, Jenny, had visited before their holiday.

The decision to return came after hundreds of protesters last week gathered outside Mr Morrison's prime ministerial residence in Kirribilli, calling for the leader to return from his break and act on climate change as a second state of emergency was declared in New South Wales due to the bushfires.

On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who at the time was filling in for Mr Morrison, defended his colleague's actions, claiming "everyone deserves a holiday, everyone deserves a break". 

On Friday, however, Mr Morrison released a statement expressing regret for "any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time" and vowed to return to Sydney "as soon as can be arranged."

The statement came hours after the deaths of NSW RFS volunteers Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O'Dwyer, 36, of the Horsley Park Brigade, who were killed when a tree fell in front of their truck, causing it to roll, near the Southwest Sydney town of Buxton on Thursday night. 

Speaking pubicly for the first time since his return to Australia, Mr Morrsion ruled out any changes to his government's climate change policies as a result of the national bushfire crisis.

“What we will not do is act in a kneejerk or crisis or panicked mode. A panic approach and response to anything does not help,” he said.

Almost 200 fires continue to burn across the country and more than 900 homes have so far been destroyed during this year's bushfire season, which officially started in August.

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