Thursday, October 24, 2013



By Monica Attard

October 21, 2013

What to do when a government decides to shut off the information tap, starving journalists of the facts they require – especially when those facts lead to government decisions that have an impact on the collective morality of the nation?

Maybe the new government’s modus operandi is why we report on the woes of that gift that keeps giving – the ALP, even in the absence of real evidence that venting about a former leader and the party’s factional system will contribute to the search for meaning.

Maybe it’s why some journalists are filling their column inches with puff pieces, a recent and surprising one about Tony Abbott, the heroic fireman, as large tracts of New South Wales burned like tinder.

Journalists are of course still digging and foraging – doing their job – to report on the business of government and governing. But the government is quietly changing the rules of the game.

Consider the stark difference between the information available and coverage of asylum seekers since September 7.

Before the election, the boats were arriving daily. We knew about the others that were were sinking and the people who were dying. We weren’t spared the details. Then the Abbott government announced that grim daily roll call was finished.

The legal right to seek safety and protection
Letters, The Age October 21, 2013
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has instructed departmental and detention centre staff to publicly refer to asylum seekers as ‘illegal’ arrivals and ‘detainees’, rather than clients (The Sunday Age, 20/10).
Could he please direct us to the Australian or international law that describes a person seeking refuge in another country because of fear of death, serious injury or persecution as an ‘illegal’? My understanding is that no such law exists.
I am tired of hearing our leaders demonise human beings made in the image of God for their partisan political ends. Mr Morrison, show us evidence that these people are doing something illegal.
Reverend Paul Arnott, Ringwood East

A bully's Orwellian language
Throughout history, tyrants have justified their actions by introducing language that dehumanises those they wish to bully or use for their own political purposes.
Yes, it is good to stop people from drowning but I am not convinced this is the true reason for the minister's action. The word ‘illegal’ is meant to influence the electorate, not desperate people seeking safety. We must insist that Morrison stop trying to manipulate us with his dishonest words.
And isn't it ‘illegal’ for a politician to mislead the public, or have we become so accustomed to this that we say nothing? War is now called peace, freedom called slavery, and ignorance called strength.
Rosie McKenry, Castlemaine

Instilling fear in the community
Minister Scott Morrison's directive is designed to shape the way one views the world, and is reinforced each time such language is used.
While the directive may be officially imposed within bureaucratic language, even though it is not illegal for people to seek asylum, the community does not have to be conned. One can easily see this directive as a ‘dog whistle’, inviting asylum seekers to be seen as ‘the other’. We cannot let linguistic tricks continue to damage Australia's international standing.
Julia Anaf, Norwood, SA

Why we must fight this change
This kind of nonsense belongs in Alice in Wonderland. ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.’ Contrast this to the national day of mourning declared in Italy when a large number of asylum seekers were tragically drowned. Calling refugees ‘illegal’ is central to the government's program to demonise refugees. Labor, the Greens and the community must protest vociferously at this change.
Cath Morrison, North Carlton
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