Labor frontbencher Stephen Jones has sparked a political spat by suggesting Prime Minister Scott Morrison had a 45-minute meeting with TV personality Piers Morgan while Brisbane was “under water” during Queensland’s deadly floods.
However, the claim is false. While Morgan shared a photo of the meeting on February 28 – when much of the city was already inundated – the event in fact took place four days earlier. While some parts of Queensland were already flooded before the meeting, Brisbane was on ‘flood watch’ alert at the time and had not yet suffered major flooding.
The row about the meeting began when the British TV host, who is preparing to front a new show on Sky News Australia, tweeted a photo of himself with Mr Morrison, thanking the prime minister for “a fascinating 45-min chat” about Ukraine and other topics. The tweet was posted on the morning of February 28.
Mr Jones, who is Labor’s shadow assistant treasurer, tweeted a screenshot of Morgan’s post with the comment: “Brisbane is under water, Lismore is about to be. SE NSW is bracing for a deluge, Ukraine is under siege …. but sure …. Spend 45 minutes with a talk show host.”
Mr Jones’s office did not respond when contacted by AAP FactCheck about the basis of his claim.
Similar criticisms about the meeting taking place during a flooding emergency were shared on Twitter by other Labor figures, including former prime minister Kevin Rudd and Darcy Byrne, the mayor of Sydney’s Inner West Council.
But Morgan revealed in a later tweet that his meeting with Mr Morrison had actually taken place “four days ago”, dating the meeting to February 24. The broadcaster also posted a photo of himself standing alongside Labor leader Anthony Albanese, which he said was taken “the night before” his meeting with the prime minister.
The photo with Mr Albanese appears to have been taken at Sky News Australia’s 25th-anniversary celebration, which took place on February 23.
The prime minister’s office also told AAP FactCheck via email the photo of Mr Morrison and Mr Morgan was taken on the morning of February 24.
The date is corroborated by photos of the prime minister at other events on the same date in which he can be seen wearing a matching dark blue suit and dark-spotted tie. For example, photos taken at press conferences on February 24 – available to view online here – show Mr Morrison in the same attire. AAP FactCheck did not find any images of the prime minister wearing a matching tie on other days in the same month.
While parts of south-east Queensland were already flooded by February 24, the Bureau of Meteorology had only designated Brisbane a ‘flood watch’ area, which it defines as “a developing situation that may lead to flooding”.
By February 25, the bureau had upgraded Brisbane to a ‘flood warning’ area – meaning “flooding is occurring or expected to occur”. The following day, parts of Brisbane were reported to be submerged with mayor Adrian Schrinner warning that water could enter “several thousands” of properties. On February 27, the bureau again updated its flood warning to “major” for the lower Brisbane River.
While Mr Jones posted his tweet before Morgan clarified the timing of his meeting with the prime minister, his post remained live at the time of writing.
His tweet also refers to Ukraine being “under siege” when the meeting took place, however it was not until the afternoon of February 24, Australian eastern time, when the full-scale military offensive began. Nevertheless, Russian President Vladimir Putin had already ordered Russian troops into eastern Ukraine on February 22 as part of what Russia described as a “peacekeeping” mission to the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk after weeks of military build-up on Ukraine’s borders.
While an image of the prime minister meeting with Piers Morgan was shared on February 28, the meeting took place four days earlier, on February 24. At this time, parts of southeast Queensland were already flooded, but contrary to the claim Brisbane was not yet inundated.
False – The claim is inaccurate.