Throwing truth overboard to win an election

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Julia Gillard may have 'lied' about the carbon tax, says former Senator Andrew Bartlett, but “…for a really world-class example of a monstrous lie forcefully repeated for political gain just before an election, it is hard to go past..." John Howard’s lie about refugees throwing their “children overboard”.  

With the carbon pricing legislation passing the House of Representatives, the complaints have got ever louder about Julia Gillard’s ‘lie’ on that matter just before the last election. Coming from the party whose former leader coined the phrase “non-core promise”, this might seem a bit rich. But as I was reminded when I found a brief clip on YouTube, for a really world-class example of a monstrous lie forcefully repeated for political gain just before an election, it’s hard to go past this.

Peter Reith:
“…it’s as clear as day ….” “they’ve also got film … someone has looked at it, and it is an absolute fact – children were thrown into the water.”

Philip Ruddock:
“…more disturbingly a number of children have been thrown overboard”… “clearly planned and pre-meditated.”

John Howard:
“There is something to me incompatible between somebody who claims to be a refugee and somebody who would throw their own child into the sea.  It offends the natural instinct of protectionand delivering security and safety to your children.”

I will refrain from detailing the record of Mr Howard’s government (or the current government) when it comes to how well they have acted on this “natural instinct of protection and delivering security and safety to children”.

Mr Howard also said “I don’t want people like that in Australia.”

As it turned out, the vast majority of the refugees on the boat in question (known as SIEV 4) did settle in Australia — while Mr Howard was still Prime Minister.

Not one of them has ever received an apology from any of the above people for being so publicly, repeatedly and grievously slurred by their new nation’s leaders.

I know with whom I would rather be sharing my country.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I have a view that if you say something publicly to, or about, a person that they have good reason to find offensive, you apologise — particularly if the basis of your comment turns out to be false.

There are so many words one could use to describe this continuing absence of apology — the very faintest criticism one could use would be to describe it as ‘bad manners’. But even suggesting a simple apology is in order would probably still be attacked as ‘political correctness’ or an assault on ‘free speech’.

(This story was originally published on Bartlett’s blog on 13 October 2011 and has been republished with the full permission of the author.)  
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