The opening paragraph by Kirsty Needham says it all:
SEVEN survivors of the Christmas Island boat tragedy will travel to Sydney today to bury family members. Among them, Madian El Ibrahimy will bury his eight-month-old daughter, Zahra and Hussein al-Husaini will lay to rest his three-month-old son Sam.
The sadness contained in those three sentences is palpable, and as tragic as anything written about the Queensland floods. In fact were you to replace “Christmas Island boat tragedy” with “Queensland floods”, and you’d be hearing both sides of politics offering statements of deep mourning.
Back when the tragedy occurred, Opposition Immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison, came out with this statement:
"What has occurred today off the cliffs of Christmas Island represents our worst fears realised. This is a terrible human tragedy."
"The lives of the men, women and children on these boats are as precious as our own, and we mourn their loss.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones. For those injured and in need, we pledge to take care of them as they recover from this tragedy."
Well I am pleased to announce that the families and loved ones are now completely recovered and we can stop caring for them or treating them as we would our own.
For here was Morrison today, on the news that the seven survivors would be flown to Sydney to attend the funeral:
"The Government had the option of having these services on Christmas Island. If relatives of those who were involved wanted to go to Christmas Island, like any other Australian who wanted to attend a funeral service in another part of the country, they would have made their own arrangements to be there.
"This is a Government whose failed border protection policies have increased the cost of asylum seeker management by more than seven-fold in just the last three years.
"They need to understand the value of taxpayers' dollars in this area.
"Are you suggesting, you know, that other Australians don't find financial cost pressures when it comes to getting to these types of events that they dearly want to go to?"
Yep, using the funeral of (among others) an eight-month old and a three-month old child as a means to talk about waste of taxpayer dollars.
Really, can you get any lower? Think about it. A father is burying his three month old child. Can you conceive of anything more horrible? How about the fact that the man’s wife will not be there because she is drowned – her body lost. Even attempting to imagine myself in his shoes brings horror to mind, and tears to eyes.
But not for Morrison.
Morrison likes to think he can be leader of the Liberal Party one day. Well all I know is I will remember his words today; and so should we all.
Was he the lone ranger on this issue? Nope try this bit of compassion from National’s Senator Fiona Nash:
"It's not really an appropriate request I don't believe for the government to say to the taxpayers of Australia, we want to pay for all of this," she told Sky News.
"We need to make sure that government decisions are made on the right basis, they are not made on an emotional reaction, they are made on a well thought out policy basis."
Yeah, we really want a Government department that has no emotional reaction when dealing with the death of a three month old child… Honestly, where do they find these people, and how do they get on the Senate ticket?
Tony Abbott was on MTR this morning getting a nice old pleasure rub from Steve Price and Andrew Bolt. How tough was the interview? Well Price started off by asking Abbott about his rise in the polls: “Are you starting to cut through or does it just mean the Government is doing a really bad job?” Oh tough question Steve, you really got him on the back foot there! There hasn’t been such a tough question asked a politician since Lisa Simpson asked Mr Burns “Mr. Burns, Your Campaign Seems To Have the Momentum of a Runaway Freight Train. Why Are You So Popular?”
Abbott was asked about Morrison’s comments. Do you think he stood up and showed some of his Christian compassion (a trait which was actually raised by Andrew Bolt earlier in the interview)? Abbott stand up to right-wing talk show hosts? Yeah right, you’ve been asleep for a few years haven’t you…
“I mean, look, (it's) a terrible tragedy and I think everyone shares the grief of people who have lost loved ones - particularly in these horrible circumstances - but you're right, it does seem a bit unusual that the government is flying people to funerals.”
What a weak-arsed pathetic response by an empty suit of a leader. Abbott is so locked into disagreeing with everything the Government does (even before they do it), that he cannot bring himself to agree with them even when common decency would suggest this is not an issue worth politicising.
But dog-whistle politics is far too often the stock in trade of those on the right, demonstrated nicely by Senate Gary Humphries who announced today he will table a petition calling for an end to any Muslim migration.
Humphries says he is tabling it only because he believes in free speech but that he doesn’t agree with the petition itself. I have to say, sorry Gary, what a pile of dung. This petition is signed by three people. Yep three. Those three people are free to say it, they are free to publish it (heck, they could start up a blog), they can send their thoughts to newspapers. That is freedom of speech. Freedom of speech does not mean any old bigot can get his petition tabled in Parliament.
Senator Humphries tabling this petition gives it a veneer of legitimacy, and also means any crank organisation (or three friends) can sign something and send it on to Humphries for it to be tabled in parliament.
Personally I think Humphries should have sent it back and said, sorry guys I can’t support it, and given you can only get three signatures, neither does anyone else.
Thankfully for the Liberal Party there was one person ready to show the country it has not departed the field when it comes to compassion. Joe Hockey stepped up to the plate and said what should have been said by his leader:
“I would never seek to deny a parent or a child from saying goodbye to their relative.”
“No matter what the colour of your skin, no matter what the nature of your faith, if your child has died or a father has died, you want to be there for the ceremony to say goodbye, and I totally understand the importance of this to those families.”
“I think we as a compassionate nation have an obligation to ensure that we retain our humanity during what is a very difficult policy debate.”
Well said that man.
It comes on the back of Julie Bishop announcing she would consider the views of her electorate on the issue of same sex marriage. To me this suggests there are some very deep tensions in the Liberal Party at the moment – tensions on issues that have been mostly buried for many years (in fact most of the period of Howard’s rule).
The question remains, will the moderate wing of the Liberal Party finally (after so many, many years) live up to its name, or will it give out a yelp and then cower back under a rock like it did from 96 to 07?
It is an important question, because if the moderate wing gains a voice, it will force the ALP to also show what it stands for on such issues.
On today’s funeral, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen responded:
“At the time of the tragedy there was an appropriate degree of public commentary from the opposition, which rose above politics. I think it would be better on the day of the funeral that that continued. It is perfectly appropriate for the Department of Immigration and the Australian Federal Police to make the arrangements that they have.
I think it is unfortunate that Mr Morrison would choose to politicise these arrangements.”
An understated response – and I guess it was the tone that needed to be taken – you can’t really tear strips off a guy while also at the same time trying to say the issue shouldn't be politicised. But the Government will need to watch out – if the moderate wing of the Libs gets vocal, then the ALP taking the neutral, above-politics stance won’t be enough. It has already lost many votes to the Greens because of this position; losing more to the Liberals will be death.