Australian politics: full coverageThe Pulse Live with Judith IrelandG4S guards linked to Manus violence
Stephen Conroy over-reached when he accused Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell of a ”political cover-up” during his ill-judged intervention at a Senate hearing on Tuesday that should have been focused on what led to the chaos and carnage on Manus Island last week.
But the Abbott government’s over-reaction on Wednesday exposed the hypocrisy of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, and may have provided a turning point for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
When Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie moved a motion admonishing Conroy, the government saw its chance to claim the moral high ground in the asylum seeker debate. It seized it, having already devoted three Dorothy Dixers to attacking Conroy.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop seconded the motion, accusing Shorten of ”unleashing the bovver boy”, and thus being complicit in his ”outrageous, appalling, despicable conduct”. Labor, she said, was so disorganised ”they cannot even find a line to run in question time”.
But Shorten, who has been struggling to cut through, delivered one in a speech that might prove the making of him. Conroy had withdrawn his remark, Shorten said, but his concern was valid: the government was using General Campbell ”to pursue your grubby culture of secrecy”.
”We in this Parliament, and the Australians that put us here, deserve a bit better than the kindergarten, flag waving, faux patriotism which you guys want to wrap yourselves around!” he said.
It was left to Morrison to respond, and pose the rhetorical question: ”Why didn’t the previous government ask for someone like General Campbell to go and fix their mess?” What he forgot was that the previous government did ask someone like General Campbell to do precisely that.
The former head of defence, Angus Houston, was a member of the panel appointed by Julia Gillard to propose how to stop the boats – and attempts to implement the panel’s recommendations were frustrated from the start by Morrison and the Coalition.
It was left to the Greens’ Adam Bandt to lament what the debate lacked. So much was said in defence of a man more than capable of defending himself, he observed, yet so little was known about the dead asylum seeker, Reza Barati.
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