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Who do you believe? The people we trust, or those lying foreigners?

We’re told on one hand that the navy “got lost” and strayed into Indonesian waters, but a few days later, we have their “professionalism” praised by Mr Abbott. How can you put the two things together? I mean, if a teacher in charge of an excursion strayed into a strip club with his students, you’d hardly have people telling you how wonderful he was just days later.

However, this is not about the actual events of the past few days. I don’t feel able to comment about something that happened thousands of kilometres away. But I find it strange that other people do.

Mr Abbott said: “Who do you believe?

“Do you believe Australian naval personnel or do you believe people who were attempting to break Australian law? I believe Australian naval personnel.”

Then it does often get down to who you believe.

“John Gerard Nestor, who attended Sydney’s St Patrick’s Seminary with Mr Abbott in the 1980s, was a priest in the Wollongong diocese in NSW when he was charged with the indecent assault of a 15-year-old altar boy in 1991.

Mr Abbott, who in 1997 was a parliamentary secretary in the Howard government, later provided a character reference in court for then Father Nestor, describing him as “a beacon of humanity”.

Ok, Nestor did have his conviction quashed on appeal. But the “who do you believe?” has obvious problems. Apart from being one of the reasons that the sexual abuse of children was never properly investigated, it’s often been used against whistleblowers. “He wouldn’t do that, he’s been a scoutmaster for years!” “She was sacked! Of course she’d say bad things about her ex-boss!”

Who do you believe?

“There has been no police investigation in Indonesia, there has been nothing of that sort.”

Speaking to reporters in Sydney, Mr Morrison also attacked the ABC for broadcasting the claims.

Yet strangely, I read that the Indonesian police were investigating their claims.

“Defence chiefs and the government have disputed the allegations after the ABC aired footage of asylum seekers receiving medical treatment for burns they say were inflicted when they were forced to hold on to hot engine pipes while they were taken to Indonesia’s Rote Island.

Indonesian police are now investigating the incident.”

So, it seems that Scott Morrison has deliberately lied about the police investigation. Or is the fact that it happened a long way away and he couldn’t possibly know his defence against dishonesty? He didn’t deliberately lie, he just can’t be expected to know. Just as he can’t actually know what happened on board an asylum seeker vessel.

But both he and Abbott regard themselves in a position to deny any accusations against our navy. Not only do they feel able to deny these, but they regard criticism of the navy as “sledging”. And, according to Morrison, the claims should not have been broadcast. Just like the phone tapping.

But when Morrison says that he is not going to put up with people criticising the Australian navy, exactly what does he mean? Have we reached a point where certain institutions are above question and scrutiny? Surely this must upset Tim “Free Speech” Wilson.

And, just to refresh your memories:

The Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, used his powers under workplace safety laws shortly before Christmas to exempt Navy sailors from their obligation to take ”reasonable care” to ensure their own safety and that of other sailors and asylum-seekers.

The change aims to give sailors legal protection, meaning they would ”not face individual criminal sanctions under the Act for giving effect to Government policy”, an explanatory statement issued by General Hurley states.

General Hurley acted in consultation with Employment Minister Eric Abetz to make the change, which effectively puts the sailors on a similar footing to military personnel fighting in battle.

So why on earth – just a few days ago – would anyone expect that implementing Government policy might leave sailors liable for “individual criminal sanctions”? Just coincidence?

Who do you believe?


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