WERE PEOPLE SMUGGLERS PAID TO RETURN BOATS?
... of course they were, but it’s more serious than it appears
Four-time Walkley Award winning political commentator and Churchill Fellow, has returned to the fray over concern that the integrity of news dissemination is continually being threatened by a partisan media.
The image of little brown paper bags at the ready to convince smugglers to turn back their boats is a quaint proposition and certainly not a Cabinet decision... not even Minister Peter Dutton was aware of the tactic when he declared it untrue. But it is true and it’s a foolish one that will reverberate between Jakarta and Canberra.
Labor and Green notables claim that it will create a “pull factor”. That claim is a nonsense, as illegal immigrants leaving from Java will now refuse to pay people smugglers for a passage that dumps them back on the same jetty they left from.
A more serious factor is that Joko Widodo will now seek to do everything within his limited power to embarrass the Abbott Government with the eager assistance of the ABC, the Guardian and Fairfax. But none of those three realises what is actually happening here.
You see Jakarta has had its sights set on Abbott ever since he stopped the boats. The animosity has been intense and unrelenting because Abbott did exactly what I predicted he would do two years ago when I reported he would stop the boats overnight, despite Jakarta and Labor’s contention that it couldn’t be done.
At the time, Rudd’s broken borders policy was depleting Australia’s budget position by $7 billion per year and it was a simple solution for Scott Morrison to throw a paltry few million at Indonesia’s corrupt military to stop the boats leaving and allow those on the water to be towed back. And that is exactly what happened... overnight!
This not only highlighted Jakarta’s glaring impotence when it came to the military, but Morrison’s envoys had foolishly disclosed the “paltry” millions that were now in the pockets of the generals were to be deducted from its aid budget.
A double whammy had been delivered to SBY and Widodo and it was one that would not soon be forgotten.
Was it any wonder relations became strained from this point on with claims of phone tapping and “we don’t need your aid”? Widodo’s white hot anger was exemplified in his determination to unnecessarily execute the Bali two, his refusal to even answer Abbott’s phone calls and his shunning of the current terrorist conference.
For Australia to deal directly with the military of a sovereign nation is a perilous ploy and the latest claims of Australia paying Indonesia’s people smugglers directly could be a step too far because you can bet your socks it will be savagely exploited by a humiliated Jakarta, and at the Abbott Government’s cost.
The boats may have stopped but in the end it may prove much more costly than merely the payments made to Indonesia’s corrupt military and to its people smugglers.
It’s not certain that Abbott possesses the necessary diplomatic skills to disarm this ticking time bomb before the ABC and Fairfax wake up that this could be a fair dinkum diversion from Shorten’s troubles.