PMs taking a holiday isn’t the problem, covering it up is
Prime Ministers usually take their holidays in January.
For the Howard family, it was Hawks Nest, just north of Newcastle on the coast. For Julia Gillard, it was time with her parents and extended family in Adelaide. And for the Abbott's, it was a week at a caravan park on the NSW South Coast where they were joined by a group of Tony's old school and university mates, their wives and families in a ritual that's been uninterrupted for 20 years (and still continues today).
This week, aside from the ferocity of the fires and the scorching temperatures across the country, the only other story to dominate the national debate was Scott Morrison's holiday to Hawaii.
Having worked for a PM, no-one should begrudge them a break, least of all in a federal election year when there's huge demands on them physically and demands on their family time.
Most leaders are up around dawn, work til late at night - often past 10pm - and almost every weekend requires paperwork and briefings, in and around some time off. It's a relentless pace but that's the job; there's no point pretending it can be different nor buy into the claptrap about work/life balance. There's no work/life balance when you're the PM, or indeed if you work for one, because by the time the issue lands on top desk in the country, it's urgent, difficult, or both. Which is why it's one of the toughest jobs in the country.
Originally, Scott Morrison had planned leave early in January to celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary and take a break with his two primary school aged children. But when it became clear he would have to be overseas on official business in India and Japan during that time, the family trip was cancelled and a pre-Christmas break taken instead.
But what turned a reasonable week off into an political own goal was the management of the PMs leave, not the fact he was on leave itself.
You see, rather than be upfront about taking a break and issuing the usual media statement that outlines when he's off and who is standing in under 'acting arrangements', the PM's office chose not to be upfront. There was no media release and instead, the press team told some favoured journalists that he was away but not to report it.
Now, telling journalists anything is a secret is almost guaranteed that it will leak, and of course when it does, you look shifty and come off worse than if you've been upfront. I also feel that they should have called him back from leave when the fires got as bad as they did midweek.
It's hard for Morrison to have sensed the mood over in Hawaii but it clearly shifted while he was away and they were slow to react.
He's now put out a statement and been forced to apologise for being away but because of poor management, it's just given the haters an easy target. In 2013, while at the caravan park, Abbott's brigade crew were called into action and he left his family holiday to fight fires. At the time, the Greens (and the usual suspects in the media) accused him of a PR stunt. So you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, as leader.
I saw these same Green MPs protesting out the front of Kirribilli House last week having a go at Morison all the while Abbott was yet again out fighting fires in NSW - which says everything doesn't it?
But while much of this criticism of Morrison is unfair, there's no doubt it could have been handled better.
The PM has one of the best and most professional offices I've seen and the win in May is evidence of how good they are, but like the phone call to the NSW police commissioner a few weeks back, this could and should have been handled better.