Scott Morrison says events of the past few months have “detracted” from Donald Trump’s achievements, but defended his close relationship with the outgoing-president.
Mr Trump has entered the final 24 hours of his presidency, with Joe Biden to be sworn in as president on Thursday morning, Australian time.
Inauguration Day comes against a tense backdrop in Washington DC, after mob of pro-Trump supporters launched a violent insurrection on the US Capitol that left five people dead.
Mr Trump has been accused of stoking the assault, after making baseless claims of widespread voter fraud to question the legitimacy of Mr Biden’s win.
Mr Trump will buck tradition by refusing to attend the inauguration.
In an interview on 4BC radio Wednesday morning, host Ray Hadley told the PM Mr Trump’s legacy had been “tarnished” by his reaction to his loss.
Mr Morrison has declined to criticise Mr Trump directly, but described the attack on Capitol Hill as “very, very disturbing”.
“The way you talked about how the last couple of months really detracted from other things that they (were) able to achieve over the last four years, I think it’s a very fair comment,” he said on Wednesday.
“That’s was really disappointing, but (there are) some very good people in the administration.”
The prime minister again singled out US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for praise, but did not name Mr Trump.
Mr Morrison called the pair earlier this week, but has not spoken to the president since before the November election.
The comments come after Labor leader Anthony Albanese accused the prime minister of going “too far” in his relationship with Mr Trump.
He said Mr Morrison’s pandering to the outgoing-president, including appearing alongside him at a partisan rally in September 2019, would damage his chances of establishing ties with Mr Biden.
But Mr Morrison described the US relationship as “the most important we have”, saying Australian leaders from across the aisle needed to seek close ties with their American counterparts.
“If people going to have a crack at me because I’ve worked with the president of the United States, I think that reflects more on them than me,” he said.
“It is that sort of foundational relationship that we have. Whoever the prime minister is, and whoever the president is, it’s important that you both steward that relationship for the benefit of both of our countries.
“Anyone who doesn’t understand that just doesn’t get it.”