Here’s Mark David’s cartoon:
The last day of parliament for the year ended with newish PM Scott Morrison effectively conceding that he could not control the House of Representatives. He shut it down because the Senate was going to send him the Phelps bill on setting some rules which would see doctors’ assessments of health matters being taken seriously in relation to medical evacuations from Nauru and Manus Island.
The morning began with a ScoMo press conference, and boy was he mad?
He said that by supporting the proposed changes, Labor leader Bill Shorten was a “clear and present threat to Australia’s safety”.
Immigration minister David Coleman told the ABC: “we’ll not be agreeing to those changes and as the prime minister said, we’ll be using all measures to seek to stop them”.
Morrison told a press conference on Thursday morning that he will do everything in his power to ensure the changes to transfers “never see the light of day”.
“Their support for amendments in the Senate to abolish offshore processing as we know it, the cheap win in the House of Representatives, don’t do it, Bill.
“The cheap win on the House of Representatives floor is not worth it. You know what you’ll be telling every Australian? Every single Australian, if you support those amendments, Bill, you’ll be telling them what they really already know, when it comes to border protection, your heart isn’t in it, and you and your party cannot be trusted that you have learnt nothing from the horror show you inflicted on them when you were last in government.”
This raises the question as to who was to blame for all those boats foundering and many lives lost at sea.
If you consider the matter carefully in the correct order, as Phillip Coorey has done in Scott Morrison must think we all have short memories the answer may surprise.
In 2011 in order to stop the asylum seeker boats the Gillard government wanted to implement a plan devised by departmental secretary Andrew Metcalfe, who had earlier designed the Pacific solution for John Howard, a plan to fly newly-arrived asylum seekers to Malaysia where they would be put at the back end of a long queue while Australia would take some from the front.
That would give queue jumpers a very clear message.
When the High Court knocked off the plan Gillard wanted to alter the migration act to give her the necessary head of power.
- Morrison, then the shadow immigration minister and his leader Tony Abbott weren’t prepared to see if it would work and they stepped in to block Gillard’s legislation by teaming up with the Greens, who wanted the boats to keep coming, and other crossbenchers.
When Gillard realised she was a number short, the bill was pulled. Had it been put to a vote, her government would have been the first to lose a vote on legislation on the floor of the House of Representatives since that of Stanley Bruce in 1929. That loss forced Bruce to an election which he lost.
- After the Malaysia plan foundered due to the actions of Morrison and Abbott, the flow of boats increased significantly, so did the deaths at sea. Another 600 people died. (Emphasis added)
Then in 2016, after Turnbull knocked Abbott off as leader, ScoMo expressed regret about what they had done and hung Abbott out to dry.
Morrison, then Treasurer, told Sky News: “I acted in accordance with my leader’s instructions.”
He seemed to forget this on Thursday when reminded of his own actions seven years ago.
“We thought it was the wrong policy,” he said of the Malaysia plan.
Now last week, when Labor, the Greens and some crossbenchers wanted to put some sensible rules in place on medical evacuations, ScoMo closes parliament and scarpered at 5pm when he heard the bill was coming from the Senate, knowing that he did not have the numbers to defeat it.
On the ABC Insiders program Josh Frydenberg said that the minister would have lost control of medical evacuations. This was not true. That is, it was a lie. The minister would have the final say, but would be obliged to make a statement to parliament giving reasons.
The program also implied that Labor’s policy was the same as that of the Coalition. That also is not true. For one thing, Labor opposed persecuting asylum seekers indefinitely on Manus and Nauru as a warning to others who might try their luck. Michelle Grattan pointed out this morning that Labor would pursue the New Zealand option, and negotiate to extend it. Furthermore, Labor has promised extra funding to UNHCR to work in our region.
ScoMo’s decision to close parliament provided the context for what then happened on cyber security. Personally, I don’t understand this, however, I am alarmed by views of people who know this tech stuff such as Sabra Lane talking to the Federal government’s former chief digital officer and founder of Accelerate HQ, Paul Shetler.
Shetler believes the creation of back doors for the spooks will make us less secure, far less, not more, and a more negative policy designed to destroy our tech industry would be difficult to imagine. He knows at least on international investor who has already decided to go offshore.
I saw Labor spokesperson on digital matters Ed Husic talk in similar terms on TV describing the bill as entirely unnecessary and a really bad idea.
Yet techies are now blaming Labor, rather than the generators of the bill, with an open letter You bunch of idiots.
Labor tries to offer the Coalition bipartisanship on security matters. In this case ScoMo first took the issue off the table of the joint committee, chaired by the LNP, then brought it back, whereupon they set to work trying to make the best of it. This resulted in 170 amendments, which, unseen by Labor, were brought into the Senate on Thursday morning.
It was soon apparent that the drafters had got many of the committee decisions wrong. The senate group worked hard in sorting the problems and finished late in the day, only to find the HoR had closed shop and gone home.
Shorten was then faced with the prospect that if there were any terrorist attacks before parliament resumed in two months time, he would be accused directly. After extracting a promise from Matthias Cormann that the 170 amendments would be considered in February, when parliament resumes, Labor passed the law as received from the HoR.
I understand that exactly nothing will happen in implementing the law between now and then.
Meanwhile, Newspoll has come out 55-45 in favour of Labor, and better PM has closed four points from 46-34 to 44-36 in favour of ScoMo. Labor’s primary vote now sits on 41.
Laura Tingle thinks community sentiment towards refugees persecuted on Nauru has changed; Peter Lewis told Phillip Adams that the scare has gone out of some of these scare campaigns. They wear out through repeated use.
Scott Morrison has confirmed that he won’t be going early to an election, but as Niki Savva said on Insiders, a lot can change over the break. Clearly that includes ScoMo’s mind. It’s hard to see him fronting up to a defeat on the floor of the House.
Finally there were two images in Coorey’s article too good to miss. First David Rowe:
Then Alex Ellinghausen:
I don’t know how he does it.