PERHAPS Alexander Downer and Phillip Ruddock really did express the views attributed to them this morning by the Fairfax press under the headline Lib Leaders Put Heat On Abbott.
Perhaps. But even a most cursory reading of the story below that headline suggests both Howard-era ministers might have had their words and sentiments subjected to that special form of torture, the Fairfax Twist. Here are the report’s initial paragraph, where the Big Assertions are made:
FORMER immigration minister Philip Ruddock has added to the pressure on Tony Abbott to do a deal with Labor on asylum seekers, saying a compromise could include Labor's preferred option of processing in Malaysia if that country formalised a promise not to return refugees to countries of persecution.
And another former Howard government minister, Alexander Downer, has called for a deal, saying Mr Abbott should let his team of shadow ministers sit down and talk with government ministers to break the political impasse on offshore processing before Christmas.
Now look at the actual quotes. Downer says, “the public want the government to do something about this.” Got that? The government, not Abbott.
And where does Ruddock stand? "In my view the government should seek to formalise its informal arrangements with Malaysia that people who are found to be refugees should not be returned to places of persecution … that might be a way they could reach a compromise without Malaysia being a signatory [to the UN Convention]." From this remark, authors Lenore Taylor and Kirsty Needham leap in the very next paragraph to the bizarre surmise that Ruddock has floated “the first suggestion the Coalition's stance could soften.”
Except, except, except … “government sources involved in negotiations with Malaysia this year said Malaysia was unlikely to change its legislation simply to please Australia's High Court…”
So what we have here, as usual, is Fairfax reproducing this vile government’s talking points, blaming Abbott for not supporting the problem its heroes created within days of the 2007 election and yet acknowledging that Malaysia, the party whose co-operation would be vital, is most unlikely to change the laws that have been and remain the chief sticking point.
Fairfax evinces much concern for the environment. Surely it could have demonstrated its principles by not wasting so many words and so much paper and ink to express a thought that might just as easily have captured in a handful of sustainable, enviro-friendly words:
"Abbott won’t discuss a compromise plan the Gillard government hasn’t formulated, cannot explain and which would not fly in any case. Isn’t Abbott just awful."