How good is Australia? Not enough for a holiday, apparently
How good is Australia?
This was the question posed to us over and over and over again during the 2018 federal election campaign by Scott Morrison, with the inferred answer being an obvious one: pretty bloody good.
But it seems that if you're the PM or a member of his party, it may be good for votes, but it's not good enough for your end of year holiday.
Late last year, news broke of Scott Morrison taking a break to Hawaii amid the bushfire crisis engulfing much of his home state of NSW, and we've since learned that Defence Minister Linda Reynolds was on holiday in Bali (where she owns a holiday house) amid the navy's dramatic evacuation of over a thousand people from Mallacoota last week.
NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott also jetted off over the Christmas period, this time even further, to London. So bad was his judgment that he has since admitted even his own family thought he'd made the wrong decision in heading abroad.
The thing that politicians need to understand though, is that this is not so much an issue of people taking a break as it is where the breaks are being taken.
Before his untimely death, Harold Holt spent many summers at Portsea in Victoria, while Malcolm Fraser visited Nareen and Red Hill, also in Victoria. John Howard spent years at Hawks Nest in NSW with his family until eventually, unwanted media attention drove him away. Tony Abbott spends most summers at a caravan park in Berrara in NSW, while Kevin Rudd took time out in his $3.1 million holiday home at Noosa in Queensland. Julia Gillard preferred Brighton Beach in South Australia, while Bill Shorten reportedly visits the same spot on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria most years. In recent times we've seen Barnaby Joyce unwind in Palm Cove in Queensland and coastal spots along the NSW coast.
No matter your political bent, there is no denying that politicians from all parties, factions and persuasions work exceptionally hard throughout the year. Like everybody else, they too deserve time off with their family and some hours away from their emails.
But as political commentator Bruce Haigh once pointed out, "where they [politicians] choose to go for their holidays is a statement of sorts." And it has to be said that buggering off to another country while your own burns certainly does that, but the statement being made is, surprise surprise, not one that curries favour with voters. Mostly because it begs the question that if Australia is good, why aren't any of the politicians who claim it is taking holidays here?
The role of a Prime Minister and their cabinet is essentially to be the grown ups of the nation and reassure us during times of national crisis and distress that they've got this, that everything is under control, and that come hell or high water, we're going to be okay. But it's a little hard to do that when you're sunning it up on another continent that's an eight hour flight away.
Next year, the Prime Minister and his mates would do well to take their holidays locally, and instead of propping up international tourism, inject some much needed funds into the economies of those with an unfathomably long road ahead of them.
God knows they'll need all the help - and holiday makers - they can get.