The Prime Minister went through two shipwrecks two years apart – shipwrecks back in 1987 and 1989. Many of his colleagues lost their political lives in the 1987 disaster, while he was pitched into the water back in 89.

We know the PM has remarkable powers of recovery – it’s hard to read anything else at the moment – so he seems to have forgotten the trauma of being shipwrecked.

“They irresponsibly sank the damned boat,” he says to brush aside accusations of lying over kids overboard in The Australian today . “Watching that video, you couldn’t tell whether people were being thrown in the water or not, it was just impossible. But after all, they did sink the boat.”

Er, yes, Prime Minister. Small, overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels have a habit of going down when people stampede to one side. It’s happened to bigger, better vessels – with tragic loss of life, too.

The PM tells The Oz:

(This issue) figured far less prominently in the public’s mind before the (2001) election than it did afterwards, because it became the great excuse why Labor lost the election.

But if it had never arisen, I don’t think there would have been any difference in the result, I don’t think a vote would have shifted.

People voted for our tough border protection policy. They didn’t vote for us because of children overboard.

True. But that doesn’t mean it was right to lie about what happened. Or to fudge to truth. Or to still be so damned defensive about it.

“They irresponsibly sank the damn boat.” “Damn.” That’s strong language for the Prime Minister. Very strong. After all, this is the bloke who wouldn’t even repeat our nation’s new tourism marketing slogan last week on 3AW. He was quite stern on the subject:

MITCHELL: So can I encourage you to repeat the slogan here?

PRIME MINISTER: No I am not given to; I am very cautious on those things Mr Mitchell.

We also learn from The Australian today that Department of Immigration figures show that the mainly Iraqi asylum-seekers “wound up with the highest success rate for all refugee claims made under the so-called Pacific solution… official data supplied to The Australian shows that 96.5%… were awarded humanitarian protection”.

These people were genuine refugees – and the Prime Minister is a callous, defensive survivor – suffering, it seems, from survivor’s guilt.

Not that it does much. Another News Limited paper, The Adelaide Advertiser, reveals today: “Cornelia Rau is yet to receive any compensation for her wrongful immigration detention, more than a year after she was released from Baxter Detention Centre… Her family is also angry that up to $10,000 in travel and legal expenses promised to Ms Rau’s NSW-based family members to allow them to visit her in Adelaide is yet to be reimbursed by the Federal Government…”

Peter Fray

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