The politics of Palmer are relatively simple. As David Marr writes in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

This is the report of an old cop into a bungled investigation that makes horrifying reading.

Mick
Palmer’s 220-page verdict on the work and attitudes of the Immigration
Department is so tough, it makes the clamour of refugee advocates seem
almost pale by comparison.

“Mistake” was the prime minister’s
word of the day as he presented Palmer’s report to the press yesterday.
But that’s not Palmer’s word. He talks of failure – failures of
culture, process, management, instruction, executive leadership,
training, record-keeping, diagnosis, treatment and duty of care.

And Michelle Grattan says:

John Howard looked uncomfortable as he stood beside Amanda
Vanstone, and no wonder. The Palmer inquiry could hardly have been more
damning of the behaviour and culture of the beleaguered Immigration
Department.

Only the previous day the prime minister had gone
out of his way to defend Immigration, while acknowledging mistakes had
been made.

No doubt he feels an obligation because, let’s face
it, the department’s culture – intolerant and always assuming the worst
of detainees or those who have not complied – has been the government’s
culture.

It might have been incompetent, but in taking its
uncompromising line, the Department was doing what was wanted by a
government that was so ready to insist that the asylum seekers had
thrown their children overboard.

If it had not mistaken a couple
of Australians for foreigners, it’s quite likely its general bad
behaviour would be continuing unquestioned…

All true –
and… and… This is a government that is still in the first year of a
fourth term and has just taken control of the Senate. It faces an
incompetent opposition. It’s not on a knife edge. The greatest
political pressures it faces are internal.

Comprehensive failures can easily be dressed up as slips.

Peter Fray

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