Kevin Rudd has been branded more “prime tourist” than prime minister as he prepares for yet another overseas trip.
Rudd will fly to New York tomorrow on his eighth foreign trip this year.
Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull launched a scathing attack, saying Rudd should stay at home and deal with the ramifications of the global financial meltdown.
“Have we elected a prime minister or a prime tourist?” Turnbull asked on the Nine Network this morning.
“His travelling is extraordinary and so early in his term – he seems to be constantly on an aeroplane.”
Rudd will miss several days of parliament as he addresses the United Nations and discusses the financial crisis with US officials. He has already spent 43 days overseas this year.
Turnbull said it was a waste of time.
“There is such a thing as the telephone,” he said.
“Just because you’re sitting on an aeroplane flying to New York doesn’t mean you’re doing anything.”
Turnbull accused Mr Rudd of “mistaking motion for action”.
The new opposition leader also accused Mr Rudd of being boring.
He did relent a little, saying overseas trips and personal contact with world leaders were important. But he said Mr Rudd was overdoing it.
The prime minister said it was responsible to engage with top leaders in light of the global financial crisis.
“In a time of global financial crisis, what is necessary in dealing with it is a global response, and that is dealing with global leaders,” he said.
“If we are to respond effectively it means high levels of coordination with leaders abroad.”
Rudd’s office took issue with a claim by Turnbull that Rudd had spent more time overseas than any other prime minister, or than his own foreign minister Stephen Smith.
Rudd had spent 43 days overseas this year, compared with 67 for Smith, according to the prime ministerial office.
Former prime minister John Howard spent at least 60 days overseas in 2002, 2003 and 2005.
Rudd’s ministers also leapt to his defence. Four of them lined up to support the trip, saying the US was the epicentre of the economic crisis so it made sense to travel there.
Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said it was “ridiculous” to suggest Mr Rudd should not go to New York.
“It is the ideal time,” Tanner said.
Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen said Mr Howard had spent plenty of time overseas when he was at the helm of state.
“I think we’re seeing a bit of hypocrisy from the opposition and Mr Turnbull in particular,” Bowen said.
Bowen said the opposition should have sent their best wishes along with Rudd on his travels.
As well as addressing the UN general assembly, Mr Rudd will meet US President George W. Bush and take part in a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.
He is expected to have formal bilateral meetings with more than a dozen world leaders, as well as informal meetings with another 10 to 15 leaders.
Smith will also head to New York this week to attend the UN general assembly.