A deeply cynical image management advisor has convinced the new conservative government how to present themselves acceptably to the Australian public. How did the Howard govt get into strife, they asked themselves? The answer pops up: snouts in the trough; pollies claiming entitlements above & beyond a measure of fairness. The issue then gets extensive attention, ahead of the finger of opposition pointed righteously in parliament.
How did our opposite number, the Labor Party, make them acceptable to the public? The answer is: by apologising for past mistakes. PM Abbott responds to this in two ways: by undertaking a South East Asian Apology Tour: where possible he says sorry for Labour’s mistakes [cancelling the live cattle export to Indonesia]; here, he is able to do things at once: look big for taking the blame for the other guy, while reminding Australians of the disfunctionality of Labor. However, he also has had to undo the damage of his intemperate words in opposition [criticising Malaysia’s treatment of people seeking asylum].
Otherwise, the MO can cry: Operational Matters, can’t issue details. Last week, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, with beady eyes and self-righteous look, managed to give the Australian media very little information; the latest instance of non-information regards refugees who commit self-harm while inside detention. The days when refugees sewed up their lips, a photo image that circulated internationally, branding the Howard regime for its heartlessness and competed internationally for horror of impact with the S/M icons emerging from Guantanamo.
Nor could Howard’s ministers plead that they were minor partners of the USA and the UK in the fight against terrorism: a DFAT officer stood in the Egyptian room where Mamdour Habib was waterboarded. Now, there will be no possibility of the media assigning blame to Morrison and Abbott; instances of refugees impaling themselves on razor wire will not be discussed during Morrison’s weekly chook feeds, on the puerile basis that talking about it will give desperate internees ideas.