Liberals seek to heal rift on boatpeople, as Morrison admits his comments were insensitiveThe SMH:
Funeral fallout: 'we did go a little bit too far' says AbbottAnd the ABC:
Morrison climbs down in funeral rowWell I am sorry, but that is all just complete and utter bollocks.
Morrison did not admit his comments were insensitive, he admitted the “timing” of his comment were insensitive. Abbott did not say “we went a little bit far”, what he actually said was: “I want to thank Scott for being man enough to accept that perhaps we did go a little bit too far yesterday.” So actually it was not Abbott admitting it, but praising Morrison for supposedly accepting it (which he didn’t – he only thought his comments were ill-timed, the content itself? Nothing wrong at all).
Tory Shepard at The Punch however was not fooled by any of Abbott’s or Morrison’s bulldust. She got it spot on:
Oh, wait – hold on. He’s not sorry he made the comments. Just about the timing. That timing being on the day of the funeral, when people were burying their loved ones.
He said today – a day later – he’s definitely still angry about the money being spent.
“I have to show a little more compassion than I did yesterday, I am happy to admit that,” Mr Morrison said.
Sounds like something he was told to write on the blackboard 100 times. Must show more compassion. Must show more compassion. Must show more compassion.
Saying sorry means accepting blame. But when politicians - and sportspeople, and others with something to lose - apologise, it is usually to dissipate blame. To try to regain the high ground, to get out of the headlines.
So what Mr Morrison has done here is try to ameliorate the effects of his insensitive comments, which were broadly condemned by people, including some within his own party.
But then he’s stayed aligned with the right-wing rage against asylum seekers by heavily qualifying his apology.
It comes across as forced, insincere, cynical.
Let’s have a look at what Morrison actually said in his “apology” in his interview with Ray Hadley
You want to clear up some confusion apparently my staff tell me?
Well look Ray I think you summarized it well. No one is ever going to accuse me I think, of not taking this matter up to the government and holding them to account but timing in terms of comments I think is very important and the timing of my comments over the last 24 hours was insensitive and was inappropriate. I know probably more than anyone how strongly people feel about this issue, how angry they get about the costs that are involved and I share that anger and I want to see that changed but there is a time and a place. I rarely leave things on the field when it comes to this issue Ray as you know, but if you step over the mark I think you have got to say so and I am prepared to do that but the government shouldn’t take that as a leave pass.
Wow, I just love the “clear up some confusion” intro by Hadley – and you see from Morrison’s opening line that Hadley has set the table for him. But as you can also see Morrison doesn't think his comments themselves were insensitive or inappropriate – just the timing. And Just in case you’re not clear on that here is how the interview ended:
Ok so you resile from what you, you back away from what you said yesterday…
I back away from the timing of it Ray.
The timing of it ok.
I guess Morrison thinks with insensitive comments, like with comedy, timing is everything. Except actually the timing only served to compound the insensitivity. Were Morrison (or Abbott) to make these comments next week or next month they would still be gutter-dwelling-shite merchants. Because regardless of when either of them were to make the comments they would still be seeking to make political hay out of the funerals of children.
The interview with Hadley demonstrated just why Morrison’s comments were so offensive – they tapped into the most xenophobic and selfish sections of our culture and milked them. Take this from Hadley:
…. I have emails here saying did they pay for the deaths of the 4 young men they killed in the insulation process? Returned servicemen who can’t afford to bury his wife and has the government intervened there? but because it is illegal boat people the government has fallen over themselves, I know people have that debate but I think it is a debate for another time, not a debate on the day they are burying their kids.
I think that debate is well made Ray and I agree with it
Hang on, what?? Morrison agrees with the debate over whether the Government should pay for the deaths of the 4 men who died putting in insulation? These deaths would I guess include that of one man whom his employer was charged and fined $100,000 for operating an unsafe business and failing to ensure his company complied with its safety obligations?
And returned servicemen who can’t afford to bury his wife? Well Ray, how about you hop over to the Centrelink website and have a look at a page called “Bereavement Payments” where you find this:
You may be eligible for a Bereavement Payment if:
- your partner dies and when they died you were both receiving either:
- you are caring for an adult or child who dies and you were receiving Carer Payment for them; or
- you are the carer or parent of a child who dies; and
And the payment is:
Members of a coupleIf your partner dies you may qualify for a lump sum Bereavement Payment, usually equal to the amount you would have received jointly less your single rate for up to 14 weeks. The amount paid depends on your individual circumstances.
Now I may agree with you that the payment could be more, but that’s a different issue. No one (at least no one with any intelligence) is suggesting the Government could have raised the bereavement pension but decided instead to hold this funeral in Sydney. But let us not also talk about old diggers who can’t afford to bury their wife being left high and dry. If they were both eligible for the pension they likely get the payment.
And let’s also get away from the bullshit you are hearing on radio and blogs that the Government is giving these people special treatment, and that they were treated with more compassion than say was given to Corporal Richard Atkinson.
First off, let’s have a bit of history: the remains of Australian soldiers killed in action did not always get returned. A rather disgraceful series of events occurred during the Vietnam War, which is related in Paul Ham’s excellent history. He writes how when the first soldiers in Vietnam were killed in action the Menzies Government refused to pay for soldiers remains to be be flown home due to the policy that such dead should be interred in the nearest commonwealth cemetery which was Terendak Barracks in Malaysia.
Yep you read that right.
When the father of the first conscript to die, Errol Noack, was told his son would be buried with full honours in Malaysia, as you can expect he took some exception to this and only through his very strong exception was he was able to get his son’s body returned.
It was only when there was such a public outcry over the same fate befalling the winner of the first VC in Vietnam, Kevin ‘Dasher’ Wheatley, that the Holt Government finally changed the policy and paid for the return of the remains and the funeral.
Things have certainly changed for the better.
When Corporal Atkinson’s remains were flown home, not only did they go to his home in Launceston, but they stopped at Darwin along the way, because that is where his unit was stationed and his fiancée lived, and where a “ramp ceremony” was held. His funeral held in Launceston was attended by 60 members of Cpl Atkinson's unit travelled from Darwin, as did two mates serving in Afghanistan.
Now on Melbourne’s MTR was heard:
Caller Ted asks if the government paid for Soldier [Corporal Richard Atkinson’s] family members to fly to the funeral? Host Martin King doubts it. He says it would not have happened if the asylum seekers did not come here in the first place.
Martin King say he “doubts it”; I say bullshit, Martin. I will bet anything that not only did the Government pay for his family members to fly from Darwin but also for the 60 members of his unit and the 2 from Afghanistan to attend.
I will happily admit I am wrong. But ask yourself – when the diggers in Afghanistan had to pay full price for a beer at Christmas there was an outcry in the media –you don’t think there might have been some word if his fiancée had been forced to pay to fly from Darwin to Launceston?
I am sure the Government paid, and I am bloody proud that they did.
Just as I am proud that the Government paid for the funeral yesterday.
But faux apology or no, the damage of Morrison’s statements were done because the talk back radios were full of hate and stupidity. Take these examples recorded on Crikey:
Caller Lenti says Asylum seekers should be sent to North Korea.
Caller Aaron says paying for the funeral for the asylum seekers is encouraging more to come.
Yes, paying for the funeral is such a big incentive for asylum seekers, because they of course all hope a family dies on the way…
There was also this:
Caller Cody thinks Federal Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey should pay for the funeral transport costs of the relatives if he supports it.
Well Caller Cody, don’t worry, Joe is back on your side.
Yesterday I praised Joe Hockey for showing decency and leadership.
Well that lasted a day.
In an example of utter jelly-back weakness, this morning (no doubt after some telephone calls with Abbott and Morrison last night) he quickly rang up Alan Jones to recant.
Jones set the interview up by talking about how Joe obviously was saying nothing much, and was sure Hockey was in full agreement with Morrison…
Deep ideological divisions? You have slapped down Scott Morrison? What the hell is going on?
I think there is a lot of commentary on this. Let me say this: we are the only party that has a strong border protection policy that will, in the end, prevent these sorts of tragedies occurring.
That is the humanity of it, is it not?
That is the humanity of it. Somehow people are suggesting that if you have a conservative view that you are without heart, and that is just dead wrong. That is the point I am making, obviously as Scott Morrison said, and was right to do, he was right to question why the funerals were not held on Christmas Island, and that is what he did. It is right for an opposition spokesperson to ask the question. It is also the case that we as a nation - and no one has suggested this – we are not so inhumane as a nation that we would prevent an eight year old newly orphaned child from attending the funeral of their father, no one suggested that, no one suggested that that child should have to pay. The issue is have the government got border protection policies right? The answer is no, emphatically no. They have got it wrong and that is why these sorts of tragedies are occurring.
That sound you hear is that of Joe Hockey’s credibility being trampled under his own boot (yeah I know, it’s not a loud sound; not much to crunch).
Yesterday he was the man who wanted to show compassion and be above politics. Today he was neck deep in backtracking, political vomit.
He then brings out the big canard:
I think the issue here is Alan, firstly why are the funerals being held in Sydney?
Correct, an unanswered question
And that is unanswered. I think the Minister for Immigration cannot hide behind yesterday’s events without explaining why the funerals were held in Sydney.
Unanswered??!! Err boys, maybe you should have listened to the radio yesterday as you would have heard Chris Bowen say this:
Speaking on ABC Local Radio in Sydney this morning, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen defended the Government's decision to accede to relatives' wishes for the funerals to be held in Sydney.
"The situation is the Australian Federal Police has responsibility for the bodies and the Department of Immigration has responsibility for the survivors obviously as people who are detainees in our system," he said.
"Now the Federal Police consulted with the families I think appropriately about where they would like the victims buried, whether that be in their homeland or in Australia and which part of Australia.
"It's appropriate then that the Department of Immigration took the decision that close and direct family members - not everybody who expressed an interest in coming to the funeral by the way, because there were more people who wanted to come to the funerals - but a decision that direct and close family members be able to attend those funerals, which I think, in these tragic circumstances, is appropriate."
So the reason the funerals were held in Sydney is because that is where the families wanted them to be.
Now as to this argument that they could have been buried on Christmas Island. Geez, how bloody heartless can you get? Does Morrison or Abbott or Hockey or Alan Jones or Ray Hadley or anyone else think that perhaps a father may actually wish to visit his three month old child’s grave occasionally? Now does anyone think that any of these asylum seekers are going to set up home on Christmas Island? No, of course not. They will most likely settle in Sydney because that is where they have either friends, relatives or at least a sense of community.
“The humanity” as Joe would have it, is not just about the cost of the burial it is about the place. Imagine the outcry if the Army had said it would only pay to bury Corporal Atkinson in Darwin because that’s where his home base was, and that’s where his fiancée lived? My God, there would have been a riot (and rightly so).
Anyone who thinks they should have been buried in Christmas Island, has to ask themselves who will tend to that grave; who will visit it; who will weep there?
You want to think of the tragedy of a dead three month old? How about we put on top of that pain the grave of a three month old that is never visited because it is on an island thousands of miles away from where the dead child’s father is. And that the reason for that is because the Government decided that is the way it should be – you know to save on costs.
Sorry, but you can have that society if you want; for mine, I am quite glad I live in the one now.
Barrie Cassidy on The Drum swallowed Morrison’s and Abbott’s apologies completely (even if he needed to do some nice use of ellipses to make it seem Abbott was sorry) and then decided the real bad guy was Chris Bowen for not allowing the nine year old orphan Seena to stay in Sydney with his uncle. Cassidy related the transcript of an interview Bowen gave with the ABC’s Jon Faine in which every other statement Bowen makes ends with Faine cutting him off.
Now I have to say I agree with Faine and Cassidy that common sense would suggest Seena should stay with his family in Sydney. But life is not always that easy.
For a start Seena’s aunt and cousin are also on Christmas Island – in fact as a report in The Australian yesterday noted, the aunt has been taking care of Seena. So while it would seem good to let Seena go with his relatives in Sydney I can understand why the Department of Immigration and Citizenship would think keeping him with his aunt is the right thing to do for the time being. The other point is that while it would seem common sense to let Seena go with his uncle, the fact remains the Government can’t just let a 9 year old under its care go off and live with an adult just because the adult says they’re willing to do so.
How would it be if it turns out the uncle really doesn’t have the space to house Seena, and so he’s sleeping on the floor, or that he’s not getting enough clothing, or food? And what about education? On Christmas Island he’s attending school – can his uncle get Seena to school? As a parent I know that dropping kids off and picking them up is not easy to do with work, so can someone do that with Seena?
Now I am actually pretty sure that all of these concerns can be allayed or overcome, but I see nothing wrong with the Government doing the checks first.
My issue is that these checks surely would not take too long and it would be much, much better were Seena to be kept in Sydney under the care of say a community organisation while they are being carried out.
To my mind that would be the Government showing both due care of the child’s welfare, and also compassion for the unusual circumstances Seena must face. Flying him back to Christmas Island, only to fly him back to Sydney in a week’s time certainly does seem to be a waste, and also pretty lacking in compassion and sense.