The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has suggested comments by Donald Trump that encouraged an insurrectionist mob to storm the US Capitol were “incredibly disappointing” and led to a “terrible” outcome.
In his first media outing since returning from a week’s holiday, Morrison distanced himself from the outgoing US president, noting the two weren’t friends before he became prime minister.
Morrison on Monday also downplayed suggestions that deaths among some “very aged” people who took the Pfizer vaccine in Norway could impact Australia’s rollout.
Earlier in January, Morrison said he hoped for a peaceful transfer of power in the US as he condemned rioters for “terribly distressing” acts of violence in storming the Capitol building.
But the Liberal leader stopped short of criticising Trump for encouraging the crowd to travel to Washington DC, and for later describing them as “very nice people”. His reluctance to admonish Trump earned Morrison a rebuke from his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, who said his response was “tepid”.
The acting prime minister, Michael McCormack, managed firmer criticism of Trump, last week describing the president’s refusal to concede defeat and his inflammatory tweets as “unfortunate”.
On Monday, Morrison told 2GB he had spoken to president-elect Joe Biden “not long after” the election and Australia had done work “behind the scenes” to engage with like-minded countries about the transition in the US.
“America is going through a very terrible time at the moment – but [we’re] looking forward to the country uniting and moving on from these terrible last few months and particularly these last few weeks,” Morrison said.
He distanced himself from Trump, saying he had “worked closely” with him as prime minister but countered suggestions they were friends, observing he didn’t know Trump before he became prime minister.
Morrison described events in the US as “deeply distressing” and recent “actions” as “very disappointing”.
Pressed if he thought Trump’s actions were disappointing, he said: “I’ve echoed the comments of other leaders about those things. I think it was very disappointing that things were allowed to get to that stage.
“The things that were said, that it encouraged others to come to the Capitol and engage in that way, were incredibly disappointing, very disappointing, and the outcomes were terrible.”
Morrison said it was not for him to “provide lectures to anybody” but it was important for the American people to come together behind their “elected president” and continue as a close friend and strong ally of Australia. “We look forward to working with president Biden and his whole team.”
During a trip to the US in 2019, Morrison attended a Trump rally in Wapakoneta, Ohio, and praised Trump’s political priorities, expressing a view that the pair “share a lot of the same views”.
In December, Trump awarded Morrison, and the prime minister accepted, a legion of merit, America’s highest military honour.
Morrison on Monday also addressed reports of potential adverse reactions to the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Norway, where authorities said they could not rule out the vaccine had contributed to the deaths of patients with severe underlying disease.
Morrison said the cases were “distressing” but downplayed the incidence of adverse reactions among “the total volume of vaccinations that have been provided”.
He said the people “who have sadly passed away – they’re very aged people, they were in the last phases of life and very frail”.
“This can happen with vaccinations. We know that,” Morrison said.
“That’s why it’s important we’re very careful – people know my view on the vaccines has always been safety first, health first. Let’s make sure they’re right, all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed, then we can give the tick and then people can safely get the jab.”
Morrison said Australia’s rollout would proceed “patiently but as expeditiously as we responsibly can”.
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