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“There Will Be No Comment Whatsoever, But Let Me Just Say This…”

“If people coming here by boat are “illegal” and need to be locked up indefinitely, then when our navy entered Indonesia waters, were they also “illegal” and at risk of being arrested and locked up indefinitely?”

Comment on Facebook

Ok, it’s totally over the top to suggest that the Indonesian Navy will attempt to intercept and detain Australian boats who are breaching their sovereignty. I mean, if a boat “accidentally strayed” into our territorial waters, we’d just ignore it wouldn’t we, unless it was full of people who may want to live here. An armed ship from another country, on the other hand, wouldn’t need permission and we’d all be relaxed and comfortable with that.

No, the Facebook comment was a silly as Kevin Rudd when he said that there would be Konfrontasi:

KEVIN RUDD: If the ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia in Australia says that the policy of the government of Indonesia is not one which would faintly support the policy put forward by Mr Abbott, and secondly if Mr Abbott as prime minister then seeks to do that, you end up with a pretty robust diplomatic conflict and I become a little uncertain as to where that heads.

As Paul Kelly said in The Australian at the time:

Rudd’s reference to past conflicts and invoking Konfrontasi during the 1960s, when Australian forces were involved against Indonesia, is extraordinary. Making these remarks just days before Rudd’s anticipated visit to Indonesia for talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is even more extraordinary.

Even when he clarified his remarks, Rudd still said that while he was referring to “diplomatic conflict” he was always wary about where diplomatic conflicts could lead.

He said that confrontation with Indonesia evolved over a “set of words” and “turned into something else”.

Yep, it sure looks like Rudd was playing politics and not giving an accurate prediction of what might happen when you allegedly have a PM who approaches things with all the sensitivity of the proverbial bull in the china shop.

Now, I know that some of you think that there’s a bit of a contradiction between Abbott standing in front of a board with the number of boat arrivals prior to the election and deciding that releasing information afterwards would “help the people smugglers”.

There is a clear difference. But unfortunately, it’s an “operational matter” and therefore can’t be released. The Abbott Government have a clear unequivocal policy of not commenting on “operational matters”. Operational matters include anything our navy has done and any questions a journalist may ask.

Operational matters does not include denials of any accusations. Operational matters only include things that have happened, not things that haven’t happened. So, if for example, the navy is accused of firing warning shots, we can be told that it DIDN’T happen. Examples of this include asylum seekers not being ill-treated, shots not being fired and boats not arriving for a couple of weeks in the monsoon season. Another example is when we wish something hadn’t happened – like when our “assets” accidentally stray into Indonesia. It’s ok to comment on that by either saying that it didn’t happen, or later on, we wish that it hadn’t happened, which is practically the same thing. However, if someone suggests that a boat slipped through unnoticed, that’s an operational matter because it DID happen and, therefore, can’t be commented on.

Now that doesn’t mean that one should presume that every time the government refuses to comment that the thing in question has occurred. Sometimes, Scott Morrison genuinely won’t have the answer.

Examples of questions to which Scott Morrison has no answer:

  1. “What is your strategy if the current policy fails to stop the boats?”
  2. “Why did you disband the advisory group of doctors?”
  3. “Are the allegations that glasses, prosthetics, hearing aids and medications have been confiscated from asylum seekers in detention?”
  4. “How much profit does SERCO make from asylum seekers? And is anyone on the Audit Committee connected with SERCO?”
  5. “How do you reconcile your treatment of asylum seekers with your Christian values?”
  6. “What is the justification for boarding boats in international waters before they’ve actually entered Australia’s territorial waters?”
  7. “How many politicians dye their hair?”
  8. “Is Christopher Pyne considering plastic surgery, and if not, why not?”

Scott Morrison should not, of course, be expected to answer these questions.

Neither should he be expected to answer any questions which will jeopardise our attempts to stop the boats. And, of course, any question which demonstrates a failure of policy by the government would do just that.

So, there’ll be absolutely no comment from the Government about the boats arriving or anything connected to “Operation Sovereign Borders” (that’s ours, not Indonesia’s). Apart from telling us when no boats arrive, of course. Or when the navy gets lost and ends up in Indonesia.* If they don’t say that boats have arrived, however, we can’t presume that there have been boats arriving – that would be speculating about “operational matters” which would be counter-productive.

Best not to think about it, and just accept that Abbott and Co have it all under control.

*This is probably – like the spying incident – Abbott taking the blame for something that’s Labor’s fault. Obviously, the GPS tracking system was purchased by Kevin Rudd from the $2 shop and this explains why it didn’t work.


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