Kevin Rudd wanted to focus on the unfolding Syrian crisis but found himself being questioned about a filming engagement, the carbon tax and his record.
An irritated prime minister on Sunday was forced to reject reports he had pushed back a briefing on Syria to pre-record an episode of the ABC Television hit Kitchen Cabinet in Brisbane on Saturday.
Later on Saturday night Mr Rudd met with Foreign Minister Bob Carr, junior defence minister Mike Kelly and senior officials in his Parliament House office.
He dismissed suggestions he should have returned to Canberra sooner, saying his department head had advised him the earliest a briefing could be held was Saturday night or Sunday morning.
“I said the best thing to do was do it as soon as possible,” Mr Rudd told ABC’s Insiders program.
“The bottom line is if I hadn’t taken the opportunity to alert the Australian people as to what was going on I would have been criticised for that.”
News Corp Australia had reported Mr Rudd used a taxpayer-funded VIP jet to fly from Sydney to Brisbane on Saturday to appear on the program, rather than to Canberra for the briefing.
The prime minister said The Sunday Telegraph’s claim he delayed the briefing was wrong.
“Had the newspaper bothered to contact my office, they would have known it was 100 per cent false,” he said.
“I don’t think it could be any clearer in terms of what has happened here.”
Mr Rudd also on Sunday agreed Labor did not have a mandate to introduce a carbon tax after the 2010 election, effectively putting him in agreement with the coalition which plans to scrap the impost if it wins government on September 7.
“I don’t think our actions on the carbon tax were right, that’s why I changed it to move towards a floating price,” he said.
“The core element here is that we believe climate change is real.”
Mr Rudd was also asked if he was pleased his predecessor Julia Gillard had chosen to stay out of the political limelight, rather than take part in the election campaign.
“I said from the point at which I returned to the prime ministership, I would not be engaging in any negative commentary in relation to Julia’s prime ministership,” he said.
Was he grateful her supporters had not sabotaged his campaign, as his supporters did to her in 2010?
“I am not going to go to internal debates … within the Labor party either at that time or on this occasion,” he said.
“I respect Julia Gillard’s contribution.
“She has made great contributions, they should be respected.”
Mr Rudd flew to Sydney on Sunday, where he is expected to spend a few days campaigning.