Abbott skips Afghanistan to avoid jet lag

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he decided to skip the prime minister’s secret trip to Afghanistan because he was worried about being “jetlagged” for the British Conservative Party conference.

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Mr Abbott was offered the chance to travel with Julia Gillard on Saturday for her visit of Australian troops in the war-torn nation but turned down the invitation.

He said he wanted to do his trip to England “justice” despite Ms Gillard also fitting in a brief trip to Zurich before heading to the Asia-Europe meeting that started on Monday in Brussels.

“I thought it was important to do this trip justice,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Birmingham.

“I didn’t want to get here entirely (in a) jetlagged condition so I’m in a position to make the most of this opportunity.”

Mr Abbott’s flight to England for the party conference had been viewed an attempt to steal the thunder from Ms Gillard’s first overseas trip as prime minister.

He had appeared to want to beat Ms Gillard to the punch by meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was only elected to office in May, before Ms Gillard had the opportunity.

Mr Abbott says he’s looking forward to meetings with Mr Cameron and hearing about his efforts in dealing with the inherited “fiscal disaster” from the previous Labour government.

“It’s important that I be here to learn the lessons of cleaning up the kind of fiscal mess that profligate Labor governments typically leave.”

Ms Gillard was keen to keep her focus on her hectic day with several world leaders in Belgium but clearly enjoyed Mr Abbott’s issue with jet lag.

“I will let Mr Abbott work out his own sleeping patterns,” she said.

“For myself I went to Afghanistan and then to Zurich and then here and I managed to get eight hours sleep last night and that prepared me for a very long day.”