Prime Minister Scott Morrison will cut a Hawaiian family holiday short, saying he "deeply regrets" any offence caused by his decision to take leave as bushfires burned across Australia.
He had received criticism from both the public and Labor politicians over his holiday, but following the deaths of two volunteer firefighters in New South Wales he announced he would return as soon as could be arranged.
His office told the ABC he would be flying into Sydney tomorrow.
"I deeply regret any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time," he said in a statement.
"I have been receiving regular updates on the bushfires disaster as well as the status of the search for and treatment of the victims of the White Island tragedy."
Mr Morrison also said the country had been well managed by Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Natural Disaster Minister David Littleproud and Foreign Minister Marise Payne.
In an interview on Sydney radio station 2GB shortly after the statement was released, Mr Morrison said the leave had been arranged some time ago.
He defended his decision not to initially reveal any details of the holiday, with his office refusing to confirm the location or the dates of leave, citing security concerns.
"I took leave in June and we followed exactly the same practice," Mr Morrison said.
"Because there has been horrendous events, that has understandably caused a lot of anxiety and I deeply regret that.
"This had been arranged some time ago, and that's just how it was, but I'll be coming back as soon as I can.
"I know Australians would want me back at this time after these fatalities."
Two New South Wales volunteer firefighters, both fathers to young children, were killed last night when their truck rolled.
The Prime Minister also confirmed he was in Hawaii during the radio interview, saying he wanted to surprise his children with a holiday.
"But if I can return and provide some moral support to people who are out there doing it really tough, then that's what I'll be very glad to do," he said.
Mr Morrison also revealed he had sent a text to Labor leader Anthony Albanese to let him know he would be away for a week, saying that in his absence the Commonwealth's responsibilities had been "well managed" by Mr McCormack and other ministers.
Trip shrouded in secrecy: Opposition
Mr Albanese repeatedly said this week he did not have an issue with the Prime Minister taking a pre-Christmas break.
However, while touring fire grounds in western Sydney, he questioned the secrecy surrounding the trip.
"I think one of the issues has been the lack of information and transparency around this," he said.
"But I tell you what, I want to talk about the needs of firefighters, not about Scott Morrison's holiday."
Most of the criticism levelled at the Prime Minister has been on social media, from some Labor politicians and the public.
On Twitter, frontbencher Stephen Jones asked what Mr Morrison would have said if former prime minister Julia Gillard had taken a holiday while bushfires burned through NSW.
"I'm sure he would have been very understanding," the tweet said.
But his Coalition colleagues have defended the move, with Mr McCormack insisting it was entirely appropriate for Mr Morrison to take leave during the bushfire crisis.
He condemned the "naysayers" criticising the trip, saying they should take a holiday too.