The natives are getting restless. If you think relations are bad between leaders and diplomats in Australia and Indonesia, they’d have to be warmer than the reception Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and his army lieutenant (general) Angus Campbell got from journalists at a press conference late this morning.
Reporters weren’t going to miss their opportunity to grill the government about its asylum seeker operations, not knowing when they’d get another chance. First Morrison refused to talk about it outside of weekly briefings, now he’s scrapped them altogether. Today’s may be the last for a while.
They peppered Morrison and Campbell with questions — is the navy towing boats back? Are detainees self-harming? How many boats are coming? — but they didn’t get many answers. “I’m not going to play that game,” was Morrison’s typically bolshie response.
You do have to admire the tactics. The Abbott government has put us on war footing, engaging the military and then using it as excuse to mask operational detail. As for the conditions in the offshore detention camps and sickening reports on poor access to medical aid and detainees hurting and starving themselves, that’s easily dismissed as unsourced claims from self-interested groups. It’s masterful media management.
Remember, most Australians reckon those seeking asylum aren’t being treated harshly enough. In that sort of environment, no matter the howls from some, it’s nothing but smooth sailing for the government.