Tony Abbott and his leadership team say we must reconcile with Indonesia and put the shooting of Chan and Sukumaran behind us. In this, writes Bob Ellis, he has badly misjudged the Australian people.
BISHOP, ABBOTT AND TRUSS have all said this week that we must, soon, reconcile with Indonesia, and put the illegal shooting of two reformed Australian heroes behind us.
A week is a long time in politics, and we shouldn’t make a fuss any longer. There are bigger things are stake. The cattle trade. The asylum seekers. Many Australians’ habit of going to Bali on holidays.
Time to kiss and make up. Have a hug, a group hug, and forget about it.
In doing this, they have gravely misjudged the Australian people and what they think a "fair go" is.
It would have been a fair go, many believe, if Abbott, before the shootings, had said he would ban all Australian travel to Bali (as he has to Syria) if the shootings took place. It would have been a fair go if he had banned such travel now – for five years, say – to punish Widodo for breaking, as he has, international law.
It would have been a fair go if he had offered to swap 20 people smugglers for the Bali Nine, and bring the boys home — bring them home alive, not their corpses. It would have been a fair go if he had offered to pay for Chan and Sukamaran’s accommodation and food for ten more years, if, at the end of them, they were then allowed to come home to their families. It would have been a fair go if he had offered $30 million were they allowed to come home now, and serve, say, five more years in an Australian prison and then let go.
It would have been a fair go if he had offered $50 million (that is, $3.80 per taxpayer) as "ransom", and let them come home forthwith and go free. And $50 million more for the rest of the Bali Nine. Or a $100 million. A total cost to the taxpayer of $11.40.
But he did not have the wit or the wile to do any of this. He made some phone calls and was not put through, and thought, or said he thought, he had "done his best".
It is much, much worse for him now, of course, now they are dead. He can’t put a foot right. Their shooting as illegal, he says, but it is more important we stay friends with their criminal executioners. He is opposed as well to honouring them, as a Catholic university wants to, by naming scholarships after them, and one might honour other murdered celebrities — JFK, Che, Steve Biko, Yitzak Rabin. It would be wrong to so praise them, he said, or he implied, these men whose salvation he had begged only six days ago. It would be wrong for them, posthumously, to "get above themselves".
He is deeply confused and he knows not what he does.
He either thinks the whole thing was worth it – the agony, the beseeching, the humiliation, the waiting – or he thinks, like Truss, that it’s only a blip on the cardiograph, a passing ripple in the ongoing warm relationship with a country we unwelcomely invaded in 1999 and have enraged with our spying and bugging and cattle banning since then.
What is he afraid of? Well, clearly, he’s afraid of a number of things. Losing our live cattle trade. A second Bali bombing. An imminent Cold War with the biggest Muslim nation on the planet. A flotilla of battleships bringing 30,000 "boat people" to Darwin, Broome, Green Island.
He is scared, by the look of it, out of his mind. He can’t ‘turn back the boats’ to Indonesia any more. Our navy will be shot at if they try it on. He can turn them back to the tyrannies in Vietnam and Sri Lanka and end up, in time, before the ICC for crimes against humanity, alongside Brandis, Morrison, Dutton, Ruddock, Bishop, Howard.
He is scared out of his mind.
This makes more likely Laurie Oakes’ prediction, today, that he is hungering for a double dissolution, after a family friendly Budget that puts his vote up to 48. He can win, he believes, from there.
Malcolm Turnbull, in his only conversation with me last year, said this was what he feared most — that his leader was misguided enough to do this and lose the whole shebang.
This Government’s track record is a tsunami of catastrophe unlike any other in the "free world" in the last 300 years and it is likely to continue in this clownish dark vein if Turnbull – and it is only Turnbull now – does not step in to staunch it.
Knowing this, Tony is likely to pull the pin, soon.
And it is not beyond the outreach of possibility that he will get away with it.
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