Australia’s top diplomat to the UK took a holiday to Queensland while many expat Aussies were begging his office for help to get home.
High Commissioner to the UK George Brandis was backed up by the Prime Minister after 7 News revealed Mr Brandis had left the UK at the peak of that country’s COVID-19 crisis to holiday on the Sunshine Coast.
“I’ll just simply give you the facts: He came back for meetings here in Australia, like many other heads of mission. He did not take the place of any other Australian,” Scott Morrison told reporters on Monday.
“He’s an Australian and he spent some time with his family in his home state while he was here.”
Mr Morrison said he’d met with Mr Brandis during the diplomat’s time in Australia.
The High Commission, a Commonwealth equivalent of an embassy, is the Australian government’s point of contact for Aussies living in the UK.
That’s where Australians have turned for help visiting home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Brandis, a former attorney-general and Liberal senator for Queensland, arrived in Australia in November and undertook a fortnight’s quarantine before travelling for meetings in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane, a spokesperson told 7 News.
“He then, in accordance with DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs) guidelines, took a short period of annual leave, which was spent at his home in Queensland, before returning to the United Kingdom,” the spokesperson said.
In a picture published by 7 News, Mr Brandis is seen sitting in an airport terminal wearing casual clothes.
Other high commissioners and ambassadors also travelled to Australia over Christmas, according to the news channel.
Arrival caps for people returning from the UK have been slashed since a mutant strain of COVID began running rampant in the country.
With more than 100,000 Aussies living there, the pressure on local consulate staff has mounted as people try to find ways to visit home despite the restrictions.
On New Year’s Eve, the High Commission in the UK cancelled all passport appointments until further notice, citing “the significant increase in COVID related cases in the United Kingdom and the national lockdown”.