Random Friday (Thursday) Prime Minister

In lieu of the Friday memory today is yesterday’s “Did he REALLY say that?” moment.

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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a succinct, but perhaps inelegant foreign policy statement in Adelaide on Thursday when he said “nope, nope, nope” to resettling any Rohingya refugees in Australia — and the Internet’s reaction has been glorious.

See also

‘Nope, nope, nope’: Tony Abbott says Australia will take no Rohingya refugees

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I don’t think it is all that hard to imagine wiser and more diplomatic ways to handle the question he was asked. I am sure Julie Bishop would have done so with her hands tied behind her back. There are times — too many — when Mr Abbott should be kept away from microphones.

The problem with what he said is put rather well by the Age political editor Michael Gordon:

Tony Abbott has a new three-word slogan, crafted in response to appeals for Australia to resettle some of the thousands of refugees facing death in the Andaman Sea: “Nope, nope, nope.”

Its fatal flaw is that it assumes the Bay of Bengal refugee crisis is identical to the one he faced when he came to power – and can be handled with the same unsustainable tool of deterrent and the same resort to simplistic “front door/back door” language. It can’t…

The Prime Minister did not have to immediately join the United States and announce a willingness to help resettle those who are found to be refugees or assist in the repatriation of those whose protection claims are rejected.

But he did have the opportunity to signal Australia’s willingness to explore all the issues, from the immediate challenge of rescuing those who face death at sea to addressing the reasons why people fled their homelands.

Instead, his only message was for the domestic political audience and the people smugglers.

Updates

See Jim Belshaw Saturday Morning Musings – refugees, diplomatic trolls, the Middle East war.

The Melbourne Age had a powerful editorial this morning on the stranded migrant boat issue: Nope is not good enough, Mr Abbott.The words I used in this piece to describe Mr Abbott’s comments were crass, unwise and inhumane. As an Australian, I felt a deep sense of personal shame at Mr Abbott’s comments because he is my nation’s leader.

The Age editorial is a must read.

With his triple-no, Mr Abbott has bastardised Australia’s humanitarian traditions. The question asked was whether Australia might consider resettling any of the thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi people who, even now, are stranded in the hot Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. No, he says. Australia will play no part. It will do “absolutely nothing” because, according to Mr Abbott’s flawed logic, doing something would encourage people smugglers to press on.

That there are still issues of some complexity about the nature of the Rohingya/Bangladeshi migrant issue: Problems for Rohingya to get worse before they improve by Matt da Silva.

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