Furious pensioner confronts Scott Morrison as Newcastle pub photo op backfires

Scott Morrison has been berated at length by a man angry about pensions and his government’s failure to legislate a federal integrity commission, during a visit to a pub in regional New South Wales.

The prime minister on Thursday shrugged off the exchange from the night before, saying he was “keen to understand” the man’s issues and that he enjoyed hearing from people in the community.

Morrison’s fiery encounter came just hours after Anthony Albanese had an unexpected interruption of his own, as a Perth man strolled into the Labor leader’s press conference wanting to ask a “tough question”.

Morrison, on the eve of the formal campaign but already in unofficial election mode, visited the Edgeworth Tavern – a popular pub west of Newcastle – on Wednesday night. With a sizeable media contingent in tow, footage from the visit showed the prime minister mingling with locals at the busy venue, with many milling around to shake his hand or snap a photo.

But social media lit up late on Wednesday after two separate encounters with members of the public who were less positive about Morrison’s performance. One woman shot a video of herself posing for a photo with Morrison as she told him: “Congratulations on being the worst prime minister ever.”

She told Guardian Australia that the PM had said “thank you” before walking off.

But an interaction with an older man at the pub, who loudly criticised Morrison to his face during a conversation lasting several minutes, was captured by the media scrum.

“You treat a disability pensioner, that’s worked all his life, paid his taxes, now he’s getting taxed again,” the man said.

“This is what you said when you got elected last time, ‘We’re going to help all those people who worked all their lives, paid their taxes, and those who have a go, get a go.’ Well, I’ve had a go, mate, I’ve worked all my life and paid my taxes.”

Morrison said they were “very good issues” and tried to get the man to speak to a member of his staff. The man pointed at the prime minister’s face, raised his voice and said he was “raising this before the election”.

“This is two promises you’ve made,” he said. “You know another promise you’ve made? You were going to have an integrity commission.”

A crowd of a few dozen massed around the conversation, with several people offering encouragement to the man, saying, “Good on you, mate.”

Morrison told the man “we’ve had quite a chat” as he tried to move on.

“You better fucking do something, I don’t care,” the man said, raising his voice further. “I’m sick of your bullshit.”

Speaking at a press conference in Wyong on Thursday morning, Morrison said the man – who he named as Ray – had a “complicated case” and that his office was trying to help.

“It was involving iCare and immigration issues. It was also involving income definitions under the pension regime. He has had a lot of complications with those cases,” Morrison said.

“My staff met with him also, after I carefully listened to what he had to say and respectfully listened to what he had to say. He was not asked to leave or anything like that. I can understand that he was very upset about some very significant issues that happened his life.”

Morrison characterised the rest of the evening as “a very welcome reception”.

“I like hearing from people. I hear from people all the time. While some may have some very complex issues that need to be addressed … it was great to see them,” he said.

The tense exchange followed Albanese’s unexpected question from a Perth man during the Labor leader’s press conference with Western Australian premier, Mark McGowan, on Wednesday afternoon.

Standing in a park outside a Perth hospital to announce a new Labor health policy, Albanese took questions from journalists on aged care, the good and services tax, and the Liberal party, before a local joined the press pack.

“I am not a media person, I am just a local resident,” the man said. “I’ve got a tough question, are you up for it?”

Albanese, appearing taken aback, said he was “absolutely up for it” but that “we can’t really do that”, citing “protocol”.

“The media alliance would be a bit upset,” the Labor leader said.

The man countered that “the media won’t mind at all” before Albanese waved him off. “We’re just taking questions from journalists, that’s what you do at a press conference,” he said.

Albanese and McGowan both said they would be happy to speak to the man after the press conference.

Labor’s campaign headquarters omitted the exchange from an official transcript circulated to journalists after the press conference, only noting the exchange in the middle of the transcript by saying the media event had been “interrupted” at that point.

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