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Australian News

Scott Morrison shares Australia’s virus response


Scott Morrison is gearing up for day two of the virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia.

The prime minister is attending the meeting from his office at The Lodge in Canberra, while he quarantines following his trip to Japan last week.

The coronavirus pandemic was at the centre of leaders’ discussions during day one of the summit.

This included calls for more co-ordinated international action to respond to the crisis, greater preparedness for the next pandemic, and making a vaccine and treatment “safe, affordable and available to all”.

“No one is safe until we are all safe,” many leaders agreed.

The need to support the World Health Organisation’s work was deemed critical to identifying pandemics early.

Mr Morrison and several others also noted the key role hope would play during the pandemic recovery, adding the progress on vaccine trials were part of that.

He told the summit that Australia’s response had been “relatively successful” in terms of suppressing the health impact and cushioning the economic blow with unprecedented fiscal support.

“With 75 per cent of jobs coming back Australia is now looking to build for the future,” Mr Morrison said.

Most leaders supported extending debt relief for vulnerable countries, and there were calls to keep trade and supply chains open, and for safe cross-border travel to resume.

Changes to the World Trade Organisation to help boost economic recovery across the world were also discussed.



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Australian News

Scott Morrison says he has ‘good relationship’ with Dan Andrews


Scott Morrison has denied tensions with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews will undermine the pair’s first meeting since the state’s second wave outbreak.

The federal government has clashed with Mr Andrews this year over his strict lockdown measures, demanding the Victorian government expedite its reopening plan.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg accused the Premier of “a callous indifference by the Victorian government to the loss of jobs in the state” over extended lockdowns.

Mr Andrews responded by describing Mr Frydenberg as “not a leader, just a Liberal”.

But ahead of his first in-person meeting with Mr Andrews since the clash, the Prime Minister insisted the pair had “maintained a very good working relationship all the way through”.

“We get on just fine. I’m looking forward to catching up with him this afternoon,” the PM told 3AW radio.

“Of course, there have been a lot of difficult issues. From time to time, there have been some disagreements. I think people understand that.

“We’re both leaders, him of Victoria, me of the country, and it’s our job to work together. We’ve never lost sight of that.”

Although the lockdown had “significant costs associated with people’s livelihoods, we’ve come out the other side”.

“The only real issue was towards the end, about what time you start to move open again”, Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison is in Melbourne to announce an $800 million plan to build the southern hemisphere’s largest vaccine manufacturing plant.

The facility will be built by Seqirus, the vaccine arm of biotech giant CSL, as part of a $1 billion deal with the federal government. It will produce flu vaccines to be used at home and exported overseas.

The agreement will also ensure supply of medical products that would otherwise need to be sourced from overseas until 2036.

The Prime Minister argues the facility will boost Australia’s economy in the short-term, and its medical capabilities in the long-term.

“There could be another pandemic, so to have this capability at an upgraded level is very important. This is for the future, but is also creating economic opportunities right now. (It adds) security around our supply chains in a critical medical area”, he said.



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Australian News

Rachelle Miller calls for Scott Morrison to investigate after revealing affair with Alan Tudge


The ex-lover of Liberal frontbencher Alan Tudge has lodged a formal complaint over her treatment in parliament revealing she believes she was “black-listed” by the Liberal Party as the Prime Minister was accused of “mansplaining” to a female minister.

Mother of two Rachelle Miller, a respected senior press secretary during the Turnbull Government, confessed to a sexual relationship with Mr Tudge last night on Four Corners.

Taking to social media to directly challenge the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, she said on Tuesday that it was never just about a consensual relationship in the workplace.

“ScottMorrison, it’s not about the #bonkban It’s about how I was treated in our workplace, which ended my career!’’ Ms Miller said.

“Those Ministers were promoted, I was black-listed. I made a formal complaint, will you ensure it’s investigated?”

The wife of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also weighed in with support for Ms Miller on Tuesday after watching the expose.

“Totally unfair on women like Rachelle Miller caught in this. However consensual relationships are, women pay the price,’’ Lucy Turnbull said.

Ms Miller worked as a press secretary for Mr Tudge when he was in human services, admitting the working relationship turned romantic in 2017, a decision she ultimately bitterly regretted.

Earlier, Scott Morrison demanded journalists stop referring to a “bonk ban” when it comes to workplace rules prohibiting senior ministers having sex with their staff describing it as demeaning a serious issue.

“Sorry, how this ban is referred to I think is quite dismissive of the seriousness of the issue and I would ask the media to stop referring to it in that way,’’ he said.

“We took it very seriously and I think constantly referring to it in that way dismisses the seriousness of this issue, it’s a very serious issue. Thanks.”

But it was his decision to jump in and answer the question after the social services minister Anne Rushton was asked for her reflections on being a woman in politics that prompted social media to erupt that the Prime Minister was “mansplaining”.

“Scott, just let her speak,’’ Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said on Twitter.

On Monday, the former press secretary Ms Miller revealed she had an affair with Mr Tudge while working in his office and was left feeling like “damaged goods” after he asked her to war-game denials.

Ms Miller told Four Corners that Canberra could be a “highly sexualised environment.”

“I don’t for a moment kind of say that all the men were predators and all the women were victims, but, you know, it was a highly sexualised environment at times, and I think that’s a consequence of the stress,” she said.

“It’s kind of that “work hard, play hard” mentality that I’ve seen before early in my career And there is a kind of … an almost gung-ho kind of mentality by a lot of the senior males that they’re kind of almost beyond reproach, like, they can just get away with things. And nobody calls that behaviour out.”

The program detailed Mr Tudge’s conservative views and his public reservations about changing the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples.

After the affair ended, Ms Miller said she was later demoted in a restructure and felt she had no choice but to leave politics.

“I knew I was leaving a job that I really loved, but I didn’t see that there was any other way out,’’ she said.

“You know, I actually at that time viewed myself as damaged goods and I was really worried about this coming out and impacting our chances at the election.”

Mr Tudge said in a statement: “Matters that occurred in my personal life in 2017 were aired on the ABC’s Four Corners program.

“I regret my actions immensely and the hurt it caused my family. I also regret the hurt that Ms Miller has experienced.”

In 2018, Mr Turnbull rewrote the code of ministerial standards to ban ministers from having sexual relationships with staff

However, the affair Ms Miller took place in 2017 when Mr Tudge was in Human Services, a period in which she also later moved out of his office and into another minister’s office.

As a result, there’s no suggestion that Mr Tudge was in breach of the code, which only applied to sex with staffers in your office.

Four Corners did not claim that any senior minister had breached the “bonk ban” or the code of conduct.

The broadcast of the program last night follows allegations raised by Four Corners executive producer Sally Neighbour that the political pressure applied to the ABC had been “extreme and unrelenting.”

Attorney-General Christian Porter has flatly rejected claims he was kissing a young staffer in a Canberra bar.

But he repeatedly declined to say if he had ever had a sexual relationship with another Liberal staffer.

“I’m not even sure the program made that allegation,’’ he said.

“They (the ABC report) indicated I had, I think implied that I had with a person I had a drink at a bar with and I said to Four Corners that their depiction of those interactions in that bar three-and-a-half- years ago were wrong. I told Malcolm there was no substance to rumours around that bar story.”

When asked again if he had ever had a sexual relationship with a staffer, Mr Porter said: “I’ve answered your question.”

Mr Porter insisted his looming divorce from second wife Jennifer Negus was not because of “this sort of stuff”.

“I feel so desperately sorry for my beautiful wife Jen that she had to watch all of that and see this stuff from university and see it cut up and chopped up in that way,” he said.

“Now, like any couple we had our ups and downs and problems and difficulties and I would say I was far from a perfect husband in many regards but our separation was not about this sort of stuff.

“I’ve never breached that ministerial code of conduct and there’s never been any suggestion I have.”



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Australian News

Anthony Albanese’s call to Scott Morrison over Trump election fraud claims


Federal Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has called for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to “dissociate himself” from members of his government who are questioning America’s democratic process.

The Labor leader congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on Sunday morning after his victory was declared at about 3.30am AEDT.

Mr Albanese said it was good that Mr Morrison had accepted the election outcome and also congratulated President-elect Biden.

“What I suggested was that Scott Morrison needs to stand up for democracy. He’s done that in acknowledging the election of President-elect Biden,” he said.

“The other thing that needs to happen is that Scott Morrison needs to dissociate himself and his government from government members who are questioning the democratic process and continue to do so.”

“The fact is that these conspiracy theories do nothing to advance our common interest of standing up for democratic values,” Mr Albanese said.

“You can’t have the leader of the Australian Government saying one thing and members of his own party saying something very different.”

Mr Albanese’s comments come after the federal Coalition MP for Dawson, George Christensen, continued to peddle misleading claims about the US election.

Mr Christensen posted to Facebook on Thursday that his prediction President Trump would win “didn’t take Democrat vote fraud into account”.

On the same day, he wrote that he thought “Wisconsin was the cheese state not the cheat state”.

On Sunday morning he shared a statement from Mr Trump claiming the Biden campaign wanted “fraudulent” ballots counted.

A number of Mr Christensen’s posts were slapped with a warning by Facebook for misleading claims.

He also circulated another post where he said he had “narrowly avoided Facebook jail” and that the Democratic Party “did not commit voter fraud”.

His other misleading posts have not been taken down.

Joe Hockey, former Liberal treasurer and the Australian ambassador to the US for four years between 2016 and 2020, was widely criticised over his comments on 2GB about voter fraud.

He said there were “plenty of good reasons” for Mr Trump to challenge the results and said he found it “hard to believe” 93 per cent of people in Washington DC voted for Biden.

When asked about President Trump’s refusal to concede on Sunday morning, Mr Morrison said he had “great confidence” in American democracy.

“I have great confidence in the American democracy and I have been expressing those consistently,” Mr Morrison said when asked what Australia would do in the event Mr Trump refused to leave.

“This is not a new process, it is time honoured and time established process and I have confidence it will resolve itself in time.”

Mr Morrison said he would continue to “work closely” with President Trump and his administration during the transition period between now and January 20.



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Australian News

Prime Minister Scott Morrison congratulates Joe Biden


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has congratulated Joe Biden on being elected the 46th President of the United States and said he had “been a great friend of Australia over many years”.

Australia woke to the news on Sunday morning with Mr Biden declared the winner about 3.30am Sunday AEDT when Pennsylvania and its 20 Electoral College votes fell to the Democratic candidate, taking him past the 270 needed for victory.

But President Donald Trump is still yet to concede defeat, and continues to falsely claim he actually won with the election.

Mr Morrison said he would continue to “work closely” with President Trump and his administration during the transition period between now and January 20.

“On behalf of the Australian Government I also acknowledge and thank President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for their contribution to the Australia-US relationship,” Mr Morrison said.

“Australia has enjoyed a strong working relationship with the current administration, one that has seen the strength of our alliance continue to grow and deepen.”

The Prime Minister said he looked forward to strengthening the Australia’s relationship with the United States when Mr Biden takes office.

“The President-elect has been a great friend of Australia over many years, including when he visited Australia in 2016,” he said.

“Our partnership goes back more than a century. Next year, our countries will celebrate 70 years since the signing of the ANZUS Treaty – the foundation of our security alliance.

“We also look forward to working with President-elect Biden and his administration to continue to fight the COVID-19 global pandemic and recession, to develop a vaccine, drive a global economic recovery, and develop new technologies to reduce global emissions as we practically confront the challenge of climate change.

“We welcome the President-elect’s commitment to multilateral institutions and strengthening democracies.”

Mr Morrison also congratulated Kamala Harris on her election as Vice President.

Australian Ambassador to the United States Arthur Sinodinos acknowledged the possibility of challenges in the courts when he spoke to ABC Insiders on Sunday morning, but said diplomats in Washington were proceeding on the basis that Joe Biden was the President-elect.

“We’re taking the position that the election has been called,” he told host David Speers.

“The President has the right to contest this in the courts, but we, the UK, New Zealand, Canada, India, France, Germany and others have taken a view based on the information that’s been provided by the networks and others who have called it that this is the case.

“Until the 20th of January, Donald Trump remains the President of the United States. My job here at the embassy, our people at the embassy, will continue to deal professionally with our colleagues in the state department, the White House.

“(After) the inauguration, there’s a new President, we will then move to work closely with the new administration.”



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Australian News

Morrison government must put effort into China relationship


WA Premier Mark McGowan has continued his criticism of the Morrison government over its deteriorating relationship with China, saying Australia needs to put more effort into conciliation.

Earlier this week, Mr McGowan gave an ominous warning to the commonwealth about its growing trade tensions with China amid reports from local media that more Australian products were expected to be barred.

On Friday, the Premier said the federal government needed to work constructively with China.

“We can have a great alliance with the United States, and a great friendship and trading relationship with China,” he told reporters.

“There is no inconsistency in the two things and I just urge the commonwealth to put additional effort into that relationship.”

The Premier reiterated diplomatic issues “should be dealt with using diplomacy”.

“I think what’s changed is diplomatic issues are not dealt with diplomatically, they’re dealt with in press conferences,” he said.

“If there are problems, which of course there are between all countries, we should deal with them behind closed doors, in meetings with proper conversations, rather than in press conferences.

“That would be my advice to everyone.”

Mr McGowan said he was “very concerned for the whole country” as tensions escalated.

“Since 1972, we’ve engaged with China … the last few years have been difficult … and that’s having severe consequences, it appears,” he said.

Among the people suffering the most, the Premier said, were those working in small businesses, tourism and mining.

“I know in some quarters it might be popular … to attack China because they do have a different system of government, a different way of doing things to us, but you’ve always got to think what the consequence might be,” he said.

“The consequence for potentially hundreds of thousands of Australians could be the loss of their job.

“That’s why I’m very, very keen that we continue to have the good relationship that was developed and continued by Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, John Howard and beyond.”

The Premier also noted China consumed half of the world’s iron ore.

“Therefore, finding other markets for iron ore is difficult,” he said.

“It’s our biggest export commodity, so obviously we need to continue to have a good relationship with our customers.”

Mr McGowan said he had communicated with the Prime Minister and major businesses over the issue.

“Obviously, anything I can do to assist, I stand ready to do,” he said.



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Local News - Victoria

Now will Morrison stop nitpicking and second-guessing Dan Andrews?


In the early weeks of the stepped-up pandemic response in March, Scott Morrison seemed happy to embrace this and implemented a shared responsibility model through the national cabinet. It started out as a beneficial arrangement. He could do what national leaders always aspire to do and that was to present himself as a sort of father figure of the nation. The “we’re all in this together” vibe – remember that? – was strong.

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At least as far as Victoria is concerned, that started to fall apart when the second wave of the virus moved through Melbourne as winter descended. Early on, as the state went into lockdown, Morrison continued with the positive stuff but eventually, as the recession took hold, and the lockdown was extended, he started shaping up against the Andrews government.

No doubt just in terms of governance Morrison was upset at the obvious hotel quarantine failures by the Victorian government and its subsequent incapacity to explain how it had come to fail so badly. But there is also a political consideration here. The Andrews government is another centre of power, a Labor government to boot. Morrison’s opposite number, Albanese, poses no threat.

One area of activity over which all federal governments are regarded as having overwhelming responsibility is the economy. And as we all know to our cost, the pandemic has brought a recession. The Victorian second-wave lockdown has hampered the national recovery, but it didn’t cause the recession – that was already on its way. Nor did the Andrews government ruin the Morrison government’s expected budget surplus – the pandemic did that.

You wouldn’t know that if you listened to the rhetoric from the Morrison government, which frames Andrews as wrecking the national economy. This is where we find ourselves: with the Victorian Labor government acting as a sort of substitute federal opposition.

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The statement issued on Monday afternoon by Morrison and his two senior ministers from Victoria, Josh Frydenberg and Greg Hunt, in response to Andrews’ announcement of the lifting of the lockdown reflected the federal government’s approach.

On a day when many, many Victorians were celebrating zero cases, zero deaths and the imminent reopening, Morrison, Frydenberg and Hunt gave Andrews a whack. Part of the statement read: “It will be important for the Victorian government to provide even more clarity to Victorians in the coming days and where restrictions do not have a health basis that they are removed quickly. We congratulate Victorians – this was the announcement that they were expecting and one they have worked hard to achieve.”

There was not a word of praise for anyone in the Victorian public health team, unless you want to believe they were covered by the “Victorians” rubric.

The question now is how long the PM and his ministers will want to sustain the attacks on Andrews. Just from a policy point of view, the assault could be counter-productive.

With Victoria starting to reopen for business, there seems little sense in threatening the state’s recovery by nitpicking and second-guessing. It might give them a warm feeling and generate lots of congratulatory emails from rank-and-file Liberal members but there are limits to its value over the longer term.

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As for Andrews, he needs to enjoy the sunshine while the sun is out. The Ipsos polling published by The Age suggests that he has been damaged by the lockdown but not fatally − not yet, anyway.

The findings of the Coate inquiry into hotel quarantine could well decide that one way or the other. As many polls have shown, there’s a powerful halo effect for government leaders during the pandemic, even when they’ve made bad mistakes. Andrews’ halo has not dimmed completely so far. The real test will be when we are all able to move around freely, truly meet up with people outside our immediate circles, get a look at what the lockdown has wrought in the shopping strips and the commercial areas where small businesses ply their trade.

Then we, and the Premier, will know what to make of each other.

Shaun Carney is a regular columnist.

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Business

Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg’s ‘idealistic’ privatisation parade


But I object to the term also because it’s an attempt to intellectualise and dignify a motivation far less noble: our deeply evolutionary instinct to form ourselves into tribes. My side, your side. Us and them. Good guys versus bad guys.

In politics, partisanship leads to polarisation and polarisation to policy gridlock and impotence. For example, look at the dis-United States. The richest, smartest big country in the world has been hopeless at coping with the pandemic, with many, many deaths. The Democrats and Republicans refuse to co-operate on anything. They’ve even turned mask wearing into a partisan issue.

It’s not so surprising that Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have been happy to justify their widely criticised budget choices by reference to their own ideology, saying the budget strategy “is consistent with the government’s core values of lower taxes and containing the size of government, guaranteeing the provision of essential services, and ensuring budget and balance sheet discipline”.

These “core values” are elaborated on the Liberal Party website. “We work towards a lean government that minimises interference in our daily lives, and maximises individual and private sector initiative.”

“We believe … in government that nurtures and encourages its citizens through incentive, rather than putting limits on people through the punishing disincentives of burdensome taxes and the stifling structures of Labor’s corporate state and bureaucratic red tape.”

“We believe … that businesses and individuals — not government — are the true creators of wealth and employment.”

To summarise, the individual is good, the collective is bad. Private good, public bad. Government is, at best, a necessary evil, to be kept to an absolute minimum.

Illustration: Simon Letch

Illustration: Simon LetchCredit:

Sorry, but this is just tribalism — the Liberal private tribe versus the Labor public tribe — masquerading as eternal truth. It’s phoney party-political product differentiation. Vote Liberal for low taxes; vote Labor for high taxes. Really? I hadn’t noticed much difference.

Private good/public bad makes no more sense than its left-wing opposite, public good/private bad. Both are a false dichotomy. It takes little thought to realise that the two sectors of the economy have different and complementary roles to play. One could not exist without the other, and we need a lot of both.

The individual and the collective. Competition and co-operation. Both sectors do much good; both can screw up. The hard part is finding the best combination of the two somewhere in the middle, not at either extreme.

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As Frydenberg has often said, the budget’s strategy is to bring about a “business-led” recovery. This explains why most of the money it spends or gives up goes to business as tax breaks. Tax cuts and cash bonuses to individuals come a poor second and direct spending on job creation has largely been avoided.

Frydenberg justified this by saying that “eight out of every 10 jobs in Australia are in the private sector. It is the engine of the Australian economy.”

Surely he’s exaggerating, I thought on Budget night. But I’ve checked and it’s true. Or rather, it is now. These days, 89 per cent of men and 81 per cent of women work in the private sector, leaving just 15 per cent of workers in the public sector.

In 1994, before the mania for privatisation and outsourcing took hold, 28 per cent of employees worked in the public sector (with two-thirds of those working for state governments).

The electricity, gas and water utilities used to be almost completely public sector. Now they’re 78 per cent private. Sale of the Commonwealth Bank, state banks and insurance companies mean the finance sector is almost totally private.

The sale of Qantas and Australian Airlines, ports and shipping and much public transport means employment in the transport industry is 90 per cent private. Despite state government ownership of schools, TAFEs and universities, employment in education is now only 54 per cent public.

Despite health and community services being largely government-funded, three out of four workers are privately employed.

See what’s happened? With some help from their rivals, the Libs have worked tirelessly over the past 25 years moving workers from the Labor public tribe to the Liberal private tribe. Haven’t you noticed the big improvement?

Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor.

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Scott Morrison criticises Dan Andrews’ continued lockdown


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lashed out at Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews over his decision not to lift coronavirus restrictions, keeping the vast majority of businesses closed.

Mr Morrison said he was profoundly disappointed in the state government’s decision to extend Melbourne’s lockdown measures, despite metropolitan COVID-19 cases falling below a rolling 14-day average of five cases.

Premier Andrews previously stated when cases fell below an average of five, some retail and hospitality businesses would be able to open under COVID-19 safe protocols.

“This is a profound disappointment,” Mr Morrison said in a joint statement with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Health Minister Greg Hunt.

“Of course, Victorians do not want to face another lockdown and of course they don’t want all of this to have been for nothing. That is why ensuring the state government’s capability to deal with outbreaks through their public health response is so essential.”

The Prime Minister said the continued lockdown suggested the state government was not confident its health system was capable of suppressing transmission of the virus.

The Victorian government said issues its contact tracing system that led to its second outbreak had significantly improved.

Mr Morrison said Melbourne’s ongoing lockdown cost the city close to 1000 jobs per day.

“At some point, you have to move forward and put your public health systems to work in a bid to reclaim the jobs that have been lost,” Mr Morrison said.

“Victoria’s public health systems are either up to the task of dealing with future outbreaks or they are not. The decision to keep businesses closed suggests that there is still not sufficient confidence within the government that their systems can support reopening.”

The federal government has also dropped Melbourne as a hotspot, according to its own health advice.

The Australian Retailers Association said it is deeply concerned about further delays to the opening up of the Melbourne economy, which is stifling trading conditions leading up to the important Christmas retail season.

ARA chief executive Paul Zahra said the Victorian government should be allowing retailers to enter stores to ensure premises are COVID-19 safe ready for the expected surge in shopper once lockdown restrictions eventually ease.

“Retailers make up to two-thirds of their profits at this time of year and that cash has never been more desperately needed,” Mr Zahra said.

“The extended lockdowns are destroying thousands of retail jobs – and while retailers are doing everything they can to stay optimistic and keep their teams employed, many can’t hold on much longer.”



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Scott Morrison buys inflatable shark from Bunnings


Scott Morrison has gotten himself a Christmas gift that left his followers in stitches and his wife slightly less amused.

The Prime Minister invested in an inflatable toy depicting Santa Claus riding a shark from Bunnings Warehouse, which he proudly showed off on social media.

“It’s here. Jen’s not so impressed,” the Prime Minister captioned a picture of himself, in casual wear and pointing to the box.

The Prime Minister’s wife, Jenny, is standing by looking less than delighted.

The Saturday afternoon post was a follow-up to another earlier this month, where Mr Morrison first announced the shark toy had come to his attention.

“Totally on this year’s Christmas list. Will be going to Bunnings,” the Prime Minister wrote in the caption to a picture of the shark fully inflated and propped up on a Bunnings shelf.

The Prime Minister, a keen Cronulla Sharks fan, sees the shark toy as an opportunity to represent his home district’s rugby league team.

The more recent Facebook post garnered thousands of comments from the Prime Minister’s supporters, many of whom said they appreciated the lighthearted touch.

“Love it, good to see a bit of a smile and sense of humour in these trying times,” one person wrote.

The $129 toy is 2.7 metres long and 1.6 metres high when inflated.

“Add some fun to your home this Xmas with this giant 2.7m inflatable Santa on a shark. With 15 super bright LEDs this inflatable will surely add a touch of festive charm to your home. Simply plug in and watch him inflate in minutes,” the product description reads.



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