On politicians flying together

Cameron Hazlehurst writes: Re. “Should MPs fly together?” (yesterday). Among the myths about the 1940 Canberra aircraft crash in which three cabinet ministers and the chief of the general staff were among the victims, one of the more persistent is that a rule was laid down about the number of ministers who could fly together. I write about this in my book on the accident and those who perished, Ten Journeys to Cameron’s Farm: An Australian Tragedy, pp.633-4:

Immediately after the crash there was considerable criticism of the government for allowing so many important men to travel together. It was widely believed that Cabinet had decided that in future no more than two ministers should fly together. But this would have been an impossible requirement. In fact, as the Canberra Times and other papers had reported on August 15 [1940], it had been agreed that air travel would be limited to the smallest possible parties. A spokesman said that a hard and fast rule could not be laid down but: ‘Members of the Cabinet will continue to use air transport frequently, as their work demands the utmost mobility at times. However, they will not travel more than one or two at a time except when it is unavoidable. Two months later, perturbed citizens were drawing attention to the fact that four ministers had flown together to a meeting.’

Abbott’s tricky wordplay

Simon Heymanson writes: Re. “Get Fact: were there really 50,000 boat arrivals a year under Labor?” (yesterday). I must protest. What he said was — “they are coming in July at the rate of 50,000 per year.” In July 4236 refugees arrived. Therefore his statement says that using the the July rate they are coming at 50,000 per year — i.e. 12 x 4236 = 50,832. He was playing with words. He was not not talking rubbish. If you read what he said he was spot on. In view of who was actually telling the truth —Crikey or Abbott — I have to conclude Abbott. This type of thing is a giant turnoff. So offensive. You must think we are complete idiots. People like me want the facts. We are quite capable of working out our own conclusions and definitely don’t need to be fed mistruths as truth.

When diplomacy is just common sense

Rod Holesgrove writes: Re. “Essential: MH17 diplomacy sparks turnaround for the Coalition” (yesterday). It doesn’t surprise me that support for Abbott has risen in the latest Essential poll following the MH17 disaster. If these situations are handled well by the incumbent — and Abbott has handled it well — then their stakes can rise no matter how bad the politician is. Despite Abbott’s disasterous policies, he now is in a position, as any national leader would be, to raise his stocks by becoming a rallying point for national distress and anger. Some of the media are overstating the extent of Australian impact on working towards an effective international outcome on MH17. The UN Security Council members all supported the Australian resolution, but despite some media suggestions that it was a triumph for Julie Bishop, it would have been most surprising in the circumstances if there had not been universal support.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey