Incoming prime minister Scott Morrison had a few leads over Peter Dutton in today’s chaotic Liberal spill. Personalities, warring factions and policy differences aside, Morrison has had a few years to cleanse his image of that pesky immigration department.
The PR problem of running Australia’s hard-line border protection was highlighted by Dutton this week. After announcing the challenge on Tuesday he said he looked forward to a chance to “smile and maybe show a different side”.
“People make their minds up seeing you in those interviews, where you’re giving tough answers and making tough decisions, as opposed to maybe a softer side that people would see if they had an insight into that,” he told Triple M listeners in Melbourne.
This is perhaps true for Dutton’s time in the top job, but hey, he didn’t have a chance to cook the food of immigrants while appearing on a charming ABC interview program.
In 2015, ScoMo served up his take on samosas aka “scomosas”, along with a Sri Lankan fish curry, some rice and chapatis to an effervescent dinner guest: political journalist Annabel Crabb.
He professed he had fallen in love with “Indian and Sri Lankan food” while on a trip to the country as shadow minister in 2013. As Amy McQuire wrote in New Matilda at the time:
Morrison used a press conference when he returned to justify his party’s hard-line policy to ‘stop the boats’, which would later help them win an election. He was adamant Sri Lankan boats wouldn’t cross Australian borders.
‘They won’t cross our borders, they’ll be intercepted outside of our sea border and we’ll be arranging for their return to Sri Lanka.’
Only a few months later, while in government, the immigration minister was taken to the High Court after holding 157 Tamil asylum seekers, 37 of them children, on a customs ship for more than a month while he tried to deport them back to their country.
In 2014, Morrison refused to meet with Tamil leaders after denying claims of handing over 203 Tamil to Sri Lankan authorities at sea, despite human rights groups warning the Tamils could face torture, rape and long-term detention upon their report.
Morrison’s time in immigration aligned perfectly with some of the hardest years for Tamil refugees in the history of the Sri Lankan civil war. But his line was clear: meet with the Sinhala majority leaders and co-operate with them at all costs.
Today, Morrison is about to lead a government who refuse to give basic medical care to children on Nauru. Only days ago a 12-year-old girl was taken to Nauru hospital after reportedly attempting to set herself on fire.
So to our new PM and the media who may seek to soften his legacy: leave the puff pastry out of the puff pieces and do something to change our absurd and cruel laws.