PM to skip NATO meeting, sending Marles instead

Anthony Albanese has turned down an invitation to mingle with world leaders at the NATO Summit in Washington, opting to send his deputy so he can stay focused on domestic matters.

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, who is also the defence minister, will travel to Washington next week in the prime minister’s place.

Mr Albanese attended the previous two summits – in Spain in 2022 and Lithuania last year.

He has faced intense criticism over the frequency of his international travel during his prime ministership, amid concerns it could bring fresh scrutiny as Australians struggle to survive in the cost-of-living crisis.

The government is promoting its relief measures this week, including energy rebates and tax cuts that kicked in on Monday to counter persistent inflation and high interest rates.

Opposition foreign spokesman Simon Birmingham criticised Mr Albanese’s decision not to join other leaders celebrating NATO’s 75th anniversary, calling it a “dereliction of duty”.

“National security is the top responsibility of the government,” he said.

“The idea that Anthony Albanese would rather be campaigning to shore up Labor marginal seats than sitting down with the NATO leaders to ensure global security and our national security interests are heard is an appalling representation of his priorities.”

The gathering could have given the prime minister the chance to meet with Sir Keir Starmer, who is widely expected to win the UK election this week and become prime minister.

But assistant foreign minister Tim Watts rebutted the coalition, saying they wanted to have it “both ways”.

“I was in the parliament last week when Peter Dutton … was criticising the prime minister for travelling too much,” he told Sky News.

“It’s really typical of this opposition under Peter Dutton. (It) doesn’t stand for anything, wants to have it every way.

“It’s the kind of opportunism that we can’t afford on the international stage in serious times.”

Mr Marles said his attendance at the summit, to be held from Tuesday next week, underscored Australia’s commitment to advocate for the region’s strategic priorities and to uphold the rules-based order.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, a group of 32 member nations in Europe and North America, was founded in the aftermath of World War II in 1949.


Tess Ikonomou
(Australian Associated Press)


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