Greg Hunt has accused ABC presenter Michael Rowland of “identifying with the left” in a tense exchange about the health minister’s decision to plaster the Liberal party logo on a government announcement about the Pfizer vaccine.
Last week Hunt attached the Liberal party logo to his Twitter post about securing an extra 10m doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.
“I know you have strong views … we predicted that you seem to be the most exercised of any person in the Australian media about this,” Hunt said, sparking a tense exchange between the two on News Breakfast on Wednesday morning.
Rowland interjected: “No, I don’t – I’m asking why?”
Hunt defended his Twitter post by saying he was “elected under that banner, multiple members across multiple parties do that”, and continued to attack Rowland’s motives.
“I’m a very proud member of that party with a great heritage and tradition in Australia and that’s part of the Australian democratic process,” Hunt told ABC News Breakfast.
“There’s no problem with identifying entirely appropriately within the rules. The origins and heritage of that banner under which we were elected by the Australian people.”
When Rowland pressed the point that taxpayers paid for the vaccines, Hunt attacked his motives again.
“I know this is an issue for you. In many ways, you identify with the left,” Hunt said.
“No, no, minister, I find that offensive,” Rowland responded.
“Come on, Michael. There’s nobody who’s watching you that don’t identify you as the left. You should be open about that. I’m open about my origins … I’m bemused but I did predict to people that Michael Rowland would spend 50% of this interview on this topic.”
Rowland: “It just struck me as odd – I asked the same question about the Labor governments – a party political logo attached to an Australian government announcement.”
Hunt: “I win the bet with my office that you would spend 50% of this interview on that topic. I know you have strong views … we predicted that you seem to be the most exercised of any person in the Australian media about this.”
Rowland: “No, I don’t, I’m asking why.”
Rowland declined to comment but tweeted after the program:
“No, Minister, I don’t identify with the left. My job as an ABC journalist is to hold ALL sides of politics to account, as I was this morning.
“It was, and is, a simple question.”
Hunt has been approached for comment.