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Trawling For Morons: The Coalition’s Fishing Boat Bait-And-Switch

How many Indonesian boats have we bought, and at what cost? Nobody’s saying.

Not all conservatives are stupid, but most stupid people are conservative.

So said John Stuart Mill, who is generally credited as being one of the fathers of modern liberalism, one who stood for the liberty of the individual against the power of the state.

Now, I quote Mill not to endorse the comment, although many admirable people have done so over the past couple of centuries.

I quote him to make the point that it appears the powers that be within the ironically named Liberal Party of Australia not only endorse Mill’s aphorism, but believe there is political capital to be made from appealing to stupidity.

We could cite many examples, but let’s focus on just one; one which can be found on page 11 of a document released in August 2013, entitled The Coalition’s Policy for a Regional Deterrence Framework to Combat People Smuggling.

Among the various measures outlined in the document, was this gem:

“[A] capped boat buy-back scheme that will provide an incentive for owners of decrepit and dangerously unsafe boats to sell their boats to government officials rather than people smugglers.”

We should note that the buy-back policy was but one part of a sub-section on “engagement with local communities” for which the then-Opposition budgeted $20 million.

I know what you’re thinking: $20 million does not sound like a lot of money. But in fact, the money allocated to the boat buy-back was much less than this, because it was only one of a number of initiatives that were to be funded from the $20 million, along with the provision of “communications equipment” to people in up to 100 villages, so they could report people-smuggling activity, and potential bounties to be paid to informants.

But the fact that it was a tiny appendix to the grandly named “Operation Sovereign Borders” did not stop The Libs’ leader Tony Abbott and immigration spokesman Scott Morrison talking it up.

<p>Ella Rubeli/The Global Mail</p>

Ella Rubeli/The Global Mail

Nor did the fact that rational analysis showed it to be an inane idea.

Do you know how many fishing boats there are in Indonesia?

Well the fact-checking site PolitiFact quickly found that statistic, along with a few others that put the “policy” in proper context. We quote:

“The country has the world’s fourth-largest coastline and its fishing industry employs more than 6 million people and contributes more than 5 per cent of the nation’s GDP. In 2004, according to the United Nations, there were 729,682 boats – though those numbers have apparently been rising.”

The site quoted Morrison, from the day he launched the policy, in company with Abbott, in Darwin on August 23:

“We want to have a program that reaches out to up to 100 villages across Indonesia. But also the opportunity where the intelligence leads you to have the option to be able to get that boat before the people smuggler does and stop that boat leaving Indonesia. That saves lives; it saves the taxpayers’ money ultimately.”

PolitiFact rated the claim that the buy-back would save lives and taxpayer dollars as being in the very worst category of political promises. It rated the promise as being in the “Pants on Fire” category.

That is to say, it was deemed a lie.

Furthermore, the evidence suggests that Abbott and Morrison always knew it was never going to be implemented, for since the election they have been very quiet about boat buy-backs.

So, come Monday’s Question Time in Parliament, the Labor Opposition sought a little information about the matter.

First up Labor’s relevant shadow minister, Richard Marles, asked Morrison a pretty straightforward question:

“How much money do you currently have allocated for the purposes of boat buy-backs in Indonesia?”

Morrison ducked and weaved, offering no specifics, but saying – in that quirky, quasi-military style he has – that the government was deploying its “full arsenal of measures” and “deploying funds as set out at the election”.

Next question, Marles asked why, given the previous answer, had Morrison apparently told the Murdoch press the previous Friday that the buy-back money had been “reallocated”.

Again Morrison avoided a straight answer, so Opposition Leader Bill Shorten next had a go at getting some truth out of the leader of the secret government, Tony Abbott.

Abbott also avoided answering.

So we are left wondering, have any boats been bought, and at what cost? And is Scott Morrison just talking through his arsenal?

Yes, this is small beer. Except inasmuch as it goes to the tactics used by the Coalition to gain power – a series of “bait and switch” misrepresentations across a whole range of issues, including but not limited to the “budget emergency” that wasn’t, and the carbon reduction scheme which isn’t.

So, let’s end with another famous political quote, attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time”.

With all respect to President Lincoln, it’s a silly quote. As Tony Abbott et al. know very well, you have only to harvest that extra few per cent of gullible ones to give you a majority.

26 comments on this story
by John Fraser

It seems to me that the Abbott government are lying to the Indonesians and the Australian public, and the Murdoch media have been lying to the Australian public about the Abbott government, and apparently the catholic church have been lying to everyone.

About the only people not lying are those who want to make Australia home.

November 19, 2013 @ 12:07am
by Roger

I am keeping (as I hope most of Australians are), a list of these wonderful 'bait and switch' moves by the Abbott government, if only to throw back in the faces of those foolhardy enough to have believed the garbage that was spewing out of Abbott and his cronies (Murdoch press) during the past 3 years. Whilst he fell short of promising rain-free weekends, it was blatantly obvious that he was selling us a PUP.

November 19, 2013 @ 1:37am
by Pappinbarra Fox

Apparently you only need to fool 50% + 1 and then keep schtum once you have reaced that level.

November 19, 2013 @ 8:55am
by liberalscum

One term tony and his band of liars will continue to get shown as disgusting greedy theifs

November 19, 2013 @ 4:17pm
by Peter

Funny then, isn't it, how liberals want the state to control everything?
BTW, I am neither liberal nor conservative, just in case you were thinking of stupid name-calling?

November 19, 2013 @ 4:26pm
by David

Peter that is a bit silly, ignore the whole argument so you can go which side of the tribal fence do you sit on followed by an equally silly strawman argument. that very much shows you have no idea what liberalism is. Ironically enough it kind of illustrates the point of the article.

November 19, 2013 @ 8:00pm
by Peter

David, really! Nothing straw about what I said at all. There seems to be extremes in current politics, but each side wants the same slice of the cherry. The conservatives call for small govt and selling of assets, which is utterly stupid, as 'we the people' have the right to control essential services via our taxes, yet the left want more regulation on all levels, with total multiculturalism (which works with all cultures except islam), and all services provided as freely as possible by the state. As always, the really workable truth, providing for reasonable freedom with reasonable responsibility, is somewhere in the middle of all that muddle.

November 19, 2013 @ 11:22pm
by Candy

U guys should team up with the guardian and the abc. Like minded troublemakers.

November 20, 2013 @ 7:00am
by Brett

If you really believe that Candy, then you are sadly misguided and most likely one of the stupid people Mike refrrs to in the story. The public has a right to know the truth and we clearly arent getting that from the Murdoch stables.

November 21, 2013 @ 12:27pm
by LuckyCountry

Buying boats from Indonesian fishermen would only result in a boat building boom with anyone with a slightly older boat selling it to Australian government & immediately having a new vessel built or bought. This would then create a glut of purchased boats & being able to ensure they were all destroyed in a country rife with corruption, would be nigh on impossible.

November 21, 2013 @ 2:25pm
by John Kelly

Why is it, I ask, that respected journalists are only able to enlighten the gullible 20 odd percent than decide the outcome of elections AFTER the event? When you know the satin of deceit is being draped so softly and lovingly over the rayban shades, why are you so incapable of removing it. YOU are the ones in control of what is seen and read. Why can't you expose a lie when it's there to be exposed?

November 23, 2013 @ 7:48am
by Chris

With respect Brett, the good Minister hasn't lied in his answers, he just dose not answer at all. I watched him in Parliament last week and he never answered any questions, after all, ts all operational therefore he cant answer! And the Speaker lets him get away with this load of cobblers

November 23, 2013 @ 7:53am
by David Healy

Chuckle! Troublemakers? Sure - but look at who GlobalMail is making trouble for!!!

November 23, 2013 @ 9:30am
by rethuhb

Genius, Lucky Country - building boom! Lets get Indo workers over here on '457 Visa's. Build Aussie made fishing boats (powered by cheap surplus Holden and Ford V8s). Sell them back to Indonesian people smugglers. Then get the Australian government to buy them back again at 2X the price. The Aus government then parks them all in Sydney Harbour or Melbourne Docklands as student accommodation, and sells them back to Chinese investors at 4X the price. Win-Win for all. Scott Morrison - come in spinner!

November 23, 2013 @ 11:01am
by Mahler

It beggars belief that there people in this nation ready and willing to swallow the 'buy a boat' line. Absolutely staggering but there you are. You can sell a basically uneducated population any lie you care to invent, especially when that population has decided it doesn't like the current government and is keen and willing to endorse any group that goes against it. Of course, as time goes by, it will become more and more difficult to find anyone who actually voted for the Abbott government.

November 23, 2013 @ 11:08am
by Douglas

The Liberals are the most dishonest party in Australia. Even their NAME is a lie! They're not liberals!

November 23, 2013 @ 11:47am
by Alex Smith


Sadly, I feel your last sentence is so on the money, and such issue give me great cause for concern for Australia and humanity in general.

When will greater sense prevail? Not under this government, and perhaps it won't be much better under any government, given the base nature by which issues are proffered in an effort to win power.


November 23, 2013 @ 1:09pm
by eric of perth

President Lincoln's aphorism was slick, catchy and has fooled a lot of people down the years. As you rightly suggest it is only necessary in a democracy to fool a small number in order to gain a majority. Those most easily fooled are those who are persuaded by catchy slogans like "Stop the boats", "Fix the debt", "Axe the tax" and so on without any comprehension of the underlying realities.

November 23, 2013 @ 3:03pm
by Jersey Mike

"Not all conservatives are stupid, but most stupid people are conservative." We have an entire party of stupid people in the US called the DNC that disproves your thesis. But that is using the modern definition of liberal. The republican party is actually the historical liberal party if the US. It was the democrats who fought for slavery, opposed the civil rights bill etc.

November 24, 2013 @ 5:58am
by sustainable future

Having a conservative media complicit in the fooling of the stupid also helps. The hand-in-glove coalition of the 'Liberal' party and the Murdoch media, and an ABC terrified of ever appearing to have any left-of-centre 'bias' in their Sky-lite News24 (with the IPA or similar far right loons on every panel without a left voice to balance them) is a terrible development for Australian democracy. The Abbott-Murdoch government will work to destroy any remaining voices of dissent.

November 24, 2013 @ 12:00pm
by bedlambay

Great work to expose Abbott, Morrison and co as complete charlatans. The Menzies Liberal Party (never liberal) used the communist scare for years and held office with DLP preferences for a long time. LBJ knew the 1966 Aussie troop commitment in Vietnam (our insurance) was a fraud (200 soldiers). Malcolm Fraser long ago realised what frauds they are. Unfortunately all the moderates have left the Liberal Party.

November 24, 2013 @ 2:24pm
by Glenn L

"Stupid" and "Moron" are good attention getting terms, but connote an inability to think rather than the mere disinclination to do so. The main problem in my view is intellectual laziness, for example preferring entertainment over information, and a tendency to engage in "group think" where you unquestioningly believe what those around you believe. Thinking for ourselves takes energy and often has a social cost as well. Nevertheless we have a duty to do it.

November 26, 2013 @ 12:55pm
by Sachia Manning

Highlight quote of my week " Scott Morrison just talking through his arsenal?" Mike Seccombe is the Prozac of Australian politics. He chronicles the DSM of political disorders in regular metered doses worthy, surely of much finer subjects. Where are the few 'good (wo)men'?

In the waxing challenge of attempting to find positives in the chronically waning standards of Aussie politics, there is one stand out, albeit, a bad means to a worse end: the degree of 'nothingness' exuded by my secret government is, as an Australian, proportional to my lack of embarrassment. Conversely, scant offerings proffered as position statements in theoretical 'press releases' are inversely proportional to the degree of therapy required to process them.

Humiliation Proliferation and Rational Desire to Dissociate Disorder is set to reach epidemic proportions as the greater Aussie populous gradually awakens from the slumber of Induced Political Tacticology to Coalition Fartocracy. An arsenal indeed. Sociopathic in context.

November 26, 2013 @ 1:46pm
Show previous 23 comments
by June

Why can I only get 3 comments instead of 21? Is there a time limit on them?

November 26, 2013 @ 2:53pm
by ian forrest

hate hate hate, eh people labor morons changed our border protection policy, 4 people in detention no deaths at sea for years and then we got the Timor solution and the mayalsian solution more than 1400 deaths men women and little children and you call morrisons attempts to stop this evil trade moronic! well all I can say is tribalism tribalism tribalism.

November 28, 2013 @ 7:38am
by Anton

Yes, the very same Scott Morrison who tried to sell Australia to the world with his moronic "Where the bloody hell are you" campaign when he was in charge of Tourism Australia - millions down the gurgler - and here he is again, this buffoon, this time as immigration minister, trying to buy all the fishing boats in Indonesia ! Don't forget he was also going to turn the boats back and the Indonesians would dutifully comply. He's still wondering why the Indos are not following HIS script. This is buffoonery at it's best.

November 28, 2013 @ 4:28pm
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