Many people were shaking their heads about immigration minister Amanda Vanstone’s hopeless political antennae last week when it appeared that poor 104-year-old Chinese woman, Hu Cui-Yu, would be deported for overstaying her visa.

The Age made the running on the story since breaking it on 23 February and carried the following paragraph last Thursday: “Since Mrs Hu’s case was reported in The Age, it has sparked widespread interest, including intense media scrutiny in China. Mr Howard intervened 12 days ago, saying there was room for ‘common sense and compassion’ in immigration decisions.”

However, Mandy wasn’t about to give The Age any credit as she decided it was worth exploiting the old lady just to get a little bit of media revenge. It appears the various Murdoch papers were tipped off about the backflip hours before the frail old lady was even told last Wednesday night.

The tactics employed become clear when you consider this basic fact – if the backflip was announced at 9.30pm on Wednesday night, how on earth did The Australian manage to get a reaction photograph into Thursday’s paper? You can see the picture from this slightly updated story online from later on Thursday.

The Age was understandably furious at being dudded and the paper only managed a four paragraph brief in Thursday’s paper, although this longer version appeared on the web the next day.

Andrew Bolt was the final pillar in the News Ltd strategy promoted by Mandy as his Sunday column bellowed that the government was never going to deport Hu. Bolt saw The Age’s low-profile coverage on the Friday as an example of their left wing bias, when in fact they missed the story for Thursday’s paper due to a deliberate conspiracy between Vanstone and the Murdoch press.

How ironic then that Bolt finished his column as follows: “Memo to the ABC’s Media Watch: this is the kind of media-watching you’re paid to do. Drop your jihad for the Left and get on with it.”

Since when is a government tribunal’s decision to deport a 104-year-old woman not a story. It ran globally, as it should have. The simple fact of this story is that Hu’s case was not sorted out over the first nine years of the Howard Government but then damaging global media coverage brought about a major backflip at the last minute.

The Chinese authorities sat patiently waiting for something to happen and when they started openly speaking – check out the story from Tuesday night’s PMhere – the Government finally acted. In terms of marketing Brand Australia, it was another act of incompetence.

As for Bolt, yesterday’s effort was up there with his notorious “kiddies were thrown over board, Immigration showed me the pictures” effort from 2001.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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