"Morrison defends 'innocent' personal visits during G7 summit" - ABC

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been labelled "insensitive" by Australians stuck overseas after it was revealed he took time out of the schedule at the G7 summit in Cornwall last weekend to trace his Cornish ancestry.

Key points:

  • Scott Morrison visited a local jail with which he has ancestral ties while in the UK for G7
  • He has defended the stop-offs as "pretty innocent"
  • The PM is back in Australia and quarantining at The Lodge in Canberra

The Prime Minister was already facing a backlash for going to three pubs during his visit to the UK, at a time when most Australians are banned from leaving the country.

Details of Mr Morrison's personal activities emerged on Sunday in an article on local news website Cornwall Live.

One of the places Mr Morrison visited was Bodmin Jail, which posted on its Facebook page that it had received a "surprise visitor" who had "popped in to hear about the strong Australian connections with many inmates held at the jail".

The Prime Minister also visited St Keverne, where his ancestor William Roberts was born, and laid flowers for him in the churchyard.

Mr Morrison reportedly wrote in the church's visitor book: "Thank you for your very kind welcome to St Keverne. It has been wonderful to return 'home' in memory of William Roberts."

Also in the entry, he thanked Karen Richards from the St Keverne Local History Society who helped him trace his family roots.

Ms Richards commented on the Cornwall Live article to say she had been sworn to secrecy.

“I had known of his visit for about a fortnight, but was unable to tell anyone about it, not even others who are also related to William Roberts, that are still living and working in the village today,” she wrote.

Scott Morrison has been criticised for sightseeing during his trip to the UK for the G7 summit.

After the visit, he went to a local pub — the Three Tuns – along with Australian High Commissioner to the UK, George Brandis.

Ms Richards said the pub was at the bottom of the church steps and they stopped in after she had showed him around.

“Contrary to the idea that visiting the Three Tuns was part of a pub crawl, he had come straight from a meeting and was on his way to another event," she said.

"He definitely deserved his ham sandwich and cold beer on such a hot day!”

The details of Mr Morrison's personal activities outside the G7 summit were not revealed by Australian officials at the time, and have now sparked anger from Australians online.

Madeleine Dunne, an Australian living in London, tweeted: "Nice of Australian PM Scott Morrison to explore his family history on his 'business' trip to Cornwall. Thanks to his border policies, I haven't seen my living, breathing family in two years."

Ms Dunne told the ABC she understood that Mr Morrison had international obligations, but said the fact he had taken time out for "pleasure" to explore his family history while so many Australians were kept away from seeing their own relatives was "hard to read".

"I see it as a really insensitive way to take a 'small amount of time out' — particularly coupled with him expressing how much he misses his wife and kids when he's only been away from them for a short period," she said.

Another Australian living in the UK, Mackenzie Scott, told the ABC he was staggered by the Prime Minister's behaviour.

"Has he no shame? He engages in pathetic photo ops and family explorations while many of us with seriously ill family in Australia (both my parents) can't get home to our loved ones," he told the ABC.

"This government has utterly failed in its treatment of most Australians overseas … preferential treatment to celebrities and now Mr Morrison's own actions, is heartbreaking."

Labor MP Brian Mitchell tweeted: "Clearly a very busy man during a gathering of world leaders in the middle of a pandemic. No doubt the many Australians stranded in the UK appreciated him taking in the sights before he jetted home on a half-empty plane."

Speaking on Nine Radio this morning, the Prime Minister rejected that the stop-offs were personal, saying they were just part of the rescheduled travel schedule for the G7.

"I wouldn't describe it like that at all, I mean 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," Mr Morrison said.

"We had some lunch and stopped off in another location on the way.

"After the G7 on the way to the airport we stopped at another place, which just happens to be where my fifth great grandfather was from.

Australia is not a G7 member, and was invited to the summit as a guest alongside India, South Korea and South Africa.

During his visit, Mr Morrison announced an in-principle free trade deal with the UK and met with the Queen.

Mr Morrison arrived back in Australia on Thursday and does not have to quarantine in a hotel like most returning residents.

He is one of 10 G7 attendees who was approved for home quarantine.

More than 9,000 people tested positive for coronavirus in the UK over the past 24 hours, with the highly contagious Delta variant responsible for almost all of those infections.

During his UK trip, Mr Morrison doubled down on international travel restrictions, and said he wasn't convinced by his first-hand view of Britain's more liberal approach of "living with coronavirus".

Thirty per cent of Australian residents were born overseas, as of June 2020, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The ABS said 99,000 Australian citizens returned after living overseas in 2019-20 — the largest number of returns ever recorded.

The Prime Minister's Office has been contacted for comment.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-21/scott-morrison-visits-while-in-uk/100229960