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Milan Kundera — ‘The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting’

I’ve heard a number of times recently that Labor is responsible for over 1200 deaths at sea, and that one man’s death in a detention camp pales into insignificance beside all those. But one man won’t have a bar of this argument, and that’s John Howard. In fact, he finds drawing a link between drownings and government policy “contemptible” I’m surprised that he hasn’t spoken up in the past few weeks. Perhaps, he has, but like the March In March, the Murdoch press are chosing to ignore it.

Anyway, here’s what he had to say about the sinking of the SIEV X in 2001.

ABC Wednesday, 24 October, 2001

JOHN HOWARD: Well I didn’t do that. Mr Beazley was the person who first drew a link between our policy and those tragic deaths. If he had not said that this would not have been an issue. He started that. I didn’t. And I think what he did was contemptible, absolutely contemptible for him to try and draw a link, and then, worse still, having been exposed he then pretends he didn’t say it.

I mean, later on in the day, having said that the deaths pointed to a policy failure he actually said he didn’t say anything, which I think is just compounding his original mistake. He was the person who tried to make a political point out of the tragic deaths of 350 people. Now I think that was contemptible. If he had not said that I would not have said anything.

MARK WILLACY: Your Immigration Minister, though, Philip Ruddock, seems happy to make a policy debate out of it though as well. He said, and I’ll quote, “If there is a linkage it’s in the failure to be able to get reforms through that would have addressed the perception of Australia being an easy touch”. He seems happy to engage in that debate.

JOHN HOWARD: No, no, but he had denied the linkage. He had denied the allegation made by Mr Beazley. I mean Mr Beazley kicked this off by expressing his sympathy and then saying this points to a policy failure.

Now that an outrageous casting of the first stone. An ugly thing to say and quite unacceptable and no amount of, you know, duck shoving and attempts by people who are trying to spin Mr Beazley out of this to say, oh, you know, he said that, somebody else said something else. He started this by making that outrageous claim.

Now naturally the Government has got to defend itself. It was a terrible thing that those people died, but that’s not the fault of the Australian Government, it’s not the fault of the Indonesian Government, it’s the fault of the people smugglers and I think it is just absolutely insensitive and contemptible for Mr Beazley to put that kind of construction on it.

So clearly Mr Howard must think that drownings at sea are no fault of Labor. Clearly.

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