Thursday, November 19, 2009

When Black is White (in the mind of our Prime Minister)

Malcolm Turnbull today, in full-flight on the topic of the Pacific Viking:

"The one thing that is beyond question is that the Prime Minister’s claim that there was no special deal has been comprehensively, universally disbelieved. I don’t believe there has ever been a statement by a Prime Minister in this House in respect of which nobody, nobody is prepared to give agreement or endorsement.

We just work through some of the commentary in the media. We had Dennis Shanahan in
The Australian. He said the Sri Lankans “will disembark because they have wrung a special deal from the Rudd Government”. Greg Sheridan, the same newspaper – “for some bizarre reason Rudd keeps saying the people on the Oceanic Viking have not got a special deal. This simply defies the ordinary meaning of language and common sense.” Paul Kelly – “he seems to think almost any line can be spun and will be believed, even when it is nonsense.”

But I am afraid to say the disbelief extends past that centre-right newspaper which the Prime Minister is so unhappy with at the moment. Tony Wright in
The Age – he says “there was no special deal for the Sri Lankans, Rudd insisted. Which is, presumably, why the last of them were content to leave the ship yesterday after refusing to budge for more than a month”...

Annabel Crabb in The Sydney Morning Herald – not many people would say that was a right wing newspaper – she wrote on the 18th, “against this crowded palate of lunacy, it’s almost possible to overlook lesser offences against human intelligence such as the Prime Minister’s insistence that the Sri Lankans passengers disembarking the Oceanic Viking have not received any sort of special deal”. Or today, the same writer notes, “a denialist so shameless that he can stare bare-facedly back at the electors and his parliamentary opponents and deny again and again and again that a bunch of Sri Lankans currently being processed in record fast time in Indonesia are not in receipt of any special deal.”

But Mr Speaker the Prime Minister’s spin hasn’t been able to fool anyone, even in his own town. Dennis Atkins wrote in the
Courier-Mail today “the consensus view that the Rudd Government provided a special deal for the seventy-six asylum seekers on the Oceanic Viking is now stronger than the much-trumpeted world scientific agreement on the causes behind climate change”.

Michael Gordon yesterday in
The Age – now surely, surely Prime Minister that is not a right wing newspaper – The Melbourne Age, Michael Gordon: “The truth is that the group was offered a special deal to leave the boat…”

But the disbelief extends even to another. Apparently, I’m afraid, it’s the ABC. This reluctance of the Australian media to accept this spin seems to be spreading. Barry Cassidy: “just to say there’s no special deal is silly.”

But Mr Speaker probably the neatest summary of all of this was in the editorial in the
Financial Review today, and it said “Mr Rudd’s refusal to give a straight answer to opposition questions on the asylum issue follows a consistent and unattractive pattern of behaviour”.

Now Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister’s pattern of behaviours is consistent and it is unattractive, but not simply because it involves saying black is white, for saying that no special deal was done when plainly a very, very special deal was done for a very special reason. It is unattractive because it has resulted in the collapse of border protection policy. The Prime Minister may think he can spin his way of his problems here in the House, but the real challenge is on our borders.

Related Posts

. Turnbullspeak. More impressive than Ruddspeak

. The Ruddspeak cloud

. "The young men in Kevin Rudd's office could get old and not even notice"

. Tuesday column: Bring on the evidence