They haven’t stopped the boats, but they have stopped you hearing about the boats. Which is an achievement in itself.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s boats blackout — gagging Customs on reporting each asylum-seeker sea arrival in favour of a stage-managed weekly briefing — is tricky politics. It might also be the most generous concession he’s made on the issue.

The stream of statements on boat arrivals strangled Labor and fed community xenophobia. Every new boat was a brand-new story on the government’s failure, on our unprotected borders, on the worthiness of asylum-seeker claims, on the cost of housing them, race assimilation in Australia, and above all the need to Do Something about the flow. We had to Stop The Boats, because the problem was Out Of Control.

Make no mistake, this is a government trying to manipulate the media to support its policy objectives. They vowed to stop the boats, and if they keep coming Morrison wants to hide it. If Labor pulled the same trick the howls would have been deafening — we await the outrage from Andrew Bolt, Piers Akerman and the like about the government trying to cover up the problem.

But what this issue always needed was some perspective. Perhaps stopping the flow of statements, if not the boats, will help.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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