Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he “deeply regrets” offence caused by his decision to take a family holiday during Australia’s bushfire crisis, marking the first time he has addressed his heavily-criticised stint away from the job.

In a statement obtained by SBS News this morning, Morrison said he took leave in mid-December because his previously scheduled holiday, set for January 2020, interfered with planned diplomatic missions to Japan and India.

“Over the course of the last week I have been taking leave with my family,” Morrison said.

“Our leave was brought forward due to the need to cancel our scheduled leave in January because of our official government visit to India and Japan at the invitation of PMs [Narendra] Modi and [Shinzō] Abe.”

Without directly apologising for the decision, Morrison said he regrets “any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires”.

“As noted, due to the most recent tragic events, I will be returning to Sydney as soon as can be arranged,” he added.

The PM has been criticised not only for taking leave during a spate of deadly bushfires, but for appearing to keep his absence under wraps.

His overseas trip was only confirmed on Tuesday, when Nationals leader and Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack told The Australian he is “representing this country as Acting PM from Wagga Wagga. How good is that?”

While the precise details of his trip are unknown, there are suggestions the PM and his family have been spending time in Hawaii.

It’s a bit less smoky there than in Sydney, we suppose.

Image: Mick Tsikas / AAP Image