No cover up, just bad politics. Labor is clearly determined to make a contrast between its own handling of the latest boat people tragedy and the way the Howard Government sought to capitalise on the Tampa incident. That is fair enough, the distortions of then Defence Minister Peter Reith were quite scandalous.

But the pretence that it is not proper to give any information about what actually led to a wooden fishing boat catching fire until the Coroner completes an inquiry really is carrying caution too far. If something was done (or not done) by the navy that hindsight shows should not have been done (or should have been done) then changing procedures should not be waiting the months it will take the Northern Territory Coroner to complete his task. As soon as the navy has reviewed the evidence the Northern Territory police have collected, there can be no harm in the government putting an end to the conspiracy nonsense being peddled by the Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull.

The deterrent joke. If the risk of being drowned at sea is not a deterrent to someone trying to reach Australia then it is hard to imagine that the promise of being presented with a different kind of visa on arrival actually will keep someone in Indonesia. Malcolm Turnbull has clearly succumbed yet again to the idea that an Opposition should oppose whatever the merits of what the Government is doing. It is reassuring to see in this morning’s Newspoll, published in The Australian, that the initial reaction of voters is to ignore the Liberal attempt at populism. Labor remains the clear people’s choice and the standing of the Opposition Leader is going down rather than up.

I expect that things will get even worse for Mr Turnbull now that some in his party are beginning to speak out and criticise him for playing the same unsavoury racial card as John Howard. Hopefully what we are seeing is another example of a politician fighting the last war after things have changed.

Hoon watch. The hoon driving Minister for Road Safety Tom Koutsantonis bid a speedy farewell to South Australia’s Cabinet yesterday. The morning words of Premier Mike Rann giving him one last chance after his appalling driving record was exposed changed to a resignation statement by the afternoon. This morning it is Queensland’s turn to have some hoon driving outrage with The Courier Mail reporting that reckless drivers are using the M1 as a race track. Police have recorded some of the highest-ever speeds in the state on the eight-lane motorway. Still, things have not yet got to the stage they reached in Phoenix Arizona at the weekend when a speed camera operator was shot dead by a passing motorist apparently angered by not being able to drive as fast as he wanted.

An obsession with minorities. Treasurer Wayne Swan clearly has plenty of dollars in his campaign war chest. One of our dedicated team of Crikey readers has sent me the following Easter card that arrived in the mail box of one of his Greek friends.

My correspondent comments:

In these times of global economic melt down and the tightening of the public purse strings, I find it strange and then insulting that our Federal Treasurer — the keeper of the said purse strings — is spending our money and sending Easter cards to minority groups. … I bet you didn’t get one for English Easter? … Then to add insult to it — it is signed “Wayne and family” as though they are personal friends. How is this cost justified???

How indeed.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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