Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended being absent during a crucial week of parliament and Voice campaigning.
Mr Albanese will return home on Monday morning after a whirlwind five day, three country trip where he attended the ASEAN, East Asia, and G20 summits; and squeezed in a side trip to Philippines.
While Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has acknowledged the importance of the meetings, he last week called out Mr Albanese for being absent when there were so many matters back home that needed addressing.
Mr Albanese refused to comment on domestic matters such as the Voice, the potential foreign affairs implications of a No vote, or on the unfolding Qatar quagmire, while away.
Back home, Mr Albanese’s absence was notably felt as Question Time was dominated by the Coalition’s probing of Transport Minister Catherine King over her decision to block Qatar’s bid to almost double its flight offerings to Australia.
It was also a key week of campaigning ahead of the Voice referendum, with support continuing to slide in all published polls and just five weeks to go until the October 14 vote.
The latest Redbridge data shows support is in “free fall”, with just 39 per cent of people planning to vote Yes, compared to the 61 per cent planning to vote No.
Pressed in New Delhi overnight about what his justification was for being overseas during the crucial last stretch of campaigning, Mr Albanese said he made “no apologies” for fulfilling his international commitments.
“This is a G20 meeting of the world’s leading economies. Australia needs to be represented here,” he told reporters.
“I’ve made it very clear that I’ll continue to do my job as the Australian Prime Minister (at home) … But Australia has to have a seat at the table.
“I make no apologies for being engaged, because it is important that Australia has a seat at the table, because it impacts on the living standards of Australians.”
Mr Albanese will fly overnight to return home in time for Question Time on Monday ahead of what’s set to be another gruelling week for the government.
The Coalition is set to use the week to continue to probe Ms King and Mr Albanese over the Qatar decision, after Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles conceded on Sunday he had not been consulted on the matter.
And, the Voice writs are set to be issued on Monday, which will likely prompt the Coalition to lob a range of questions about the referendum at the Prime Minister.