“…It’s not every day that a cabinet minister gets up in a lecture theatre to confess the asylum-seeker debate is ‘killing’ the government. Or that his ‘greatest failure’ as minister was failing to lead the national debate on immigration,” writes Samantha Maiden in The Australian today.

At least, not these days. Back when Immigration Minister Chris Evans first took on the portfolio that transformed Philip Ruddock from moderate liberal to Emperor Palpatine, his thoughtful words on the difficulties he faced were refreshing. They were also public.

Words like those he gave on handling individual migration cases to the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee in 2008. Concern, he said then, of “playing God”.

The shame about yesterday’s incident is that Evans opted for Chatham House Rules, and when a reporter who arrived late dared to ask for an interview on Evans’ commendably candid comments, according to Maiden, the Minister tried to “heavy a 23-year-old 2UE radio reporter into not running the story…”

Evans would argue the reason he didn’t want his comments on the record was because certain sections of the media would twist his words. And he has good reason. As he reportedly complained to the room yesterday, radio ‘shock jocks’ Alan Jones and Ray Hadley of 2GB continue to promote misinformation on the issue. A quick glance at the transcript from Jones’ program supports his complaint.

But the moment your government promises a “frank, open, honest national conversation on the issues of border protection and asylum seekers” then they must tell it like it is to everyone, not just a select group of officials.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey