What’s happened to the Canberra Gallery? Nobody asked the obvious question at the PM’s presser
on Friday when he made his concessions to Petro Georgiou and his rebel
band: “Prime minister, is this giving into terror?” Yes, there would
have been a small explosion – but we all loved letting off penny
bangers where we shouldn’t when we were kids.

Today, in the wake of The Sunday Age’s
revelations about what just might be in the Palmer Report, we should
probably be asking another question: “Prime minister, is this giving
into error?” There’s another question, too. What came first – the
concession or the draft report?

“‘Mindless zealotry’ prevails
within the Immigration Department, says the report of Mick Palmer, the
former Australian Federal Police commissioner heading the inquiry into
immigration detention,” The Sunday Age yarn opened. “And he was
forced to confront immigration minister Senator Amanda Vanstone when
department officials refused to fully cooperate with his investigation.”

says the report “is thought to have been handed to Prime Minister John
Howard on Friday.” Did he have no choice but to make concessions?

The final outcome of the negotiations is concerning in light of what the Sunday Age says Palmer contains.

On Friday, it appeared as if the prime minister acknowledged the central argument Georgiou laid out late in May:

For many years I have been concerned about difficulties
experienced by some refugees and asylum seekers, which result from
policies implemented at a time of widespread anxiety that we might be
engulfed by a flood of bogus asylum seekers. That fear has not been
realised. It’s time to review the policy framework established under
different circumstances and adopt a more compassionate, transparent and
accountable approach while maintaining the integrity of our immigration
and refugee system.

Even then, though, before the
Palmer comments seeped out, it looked like a bureaucratic solution to
problems created by bureaucrats with a minister unable to lead.

is a lot of progress here, albeit with some bizarre aspects. Expanding
Vanstone’s power is certainly counter-intuitive after everything that’s
happened,” Michelle Grattan observed on Saturday.

Mike Seccombe’s wrap in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald may have been even more accurate than he knew:

The fact is, pragmatism – for which Howard has a deserved
reputation – dictates change as much as the idealism which motivates
the reformers. So does the politics of the situation. While the four
moderates behind the liberalising private member’s bills do not have
the numbers – even with the (not terribly principled) support of Labor
– to win on the floor of the Parliament, they do have at least partial
support from many colleagues…

More would have joined
them in the wake of Palmer. John Howard is noted for his
incrementalism. It has certainly served him well here.

PS: Meet the new modern man. “He’s slick, he’s stylish and he’s not afraid to show he cares! He’s the Petrosexual!