JOHN MENADUE. The ongoing spin that Tony Abbott and the Coalition stopped the boats.- A REPOST from August 3 2017

Peter Hughes and I posted two blogs in September 2015 (‘Slogans versus facts on boat arrivals’ Part 1 and Part 2) that pointed out first, that Tony Abbott kept the door open for tens of thousands of boat arrivals by opposing legislation that would have enabled implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement of September 2011. Secondly, we pointed out that Tony Abbott’s role in ‘stopping the boats’ was at the margins and vastly overrated. 

Since then, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton have continued their spin about how they stopped the boats. They didn’t. Unfortunately, our mainstream media were duped in the first place by uncritically accepting the Coalition’s line in the confused period of the changeover of governments and in the drama and secrecy surrounding a small number of turnbacks.

Our main conclusion in those posts was that:

By the time Operation Sovereign Borders geared up for its first boat turnbacks on 19 December 2013, the number of boat arrivals was down from 48 in July 2013 to only seven in December 2013. OSB applied only to the tail end of the boat drama. The ‘game-changer’ was Kevin Rudd’s announcement in July 2013 that people arriving by boat after that time would not be settled in Australia. 

Arguably boat turnbacks would not have been successful at all without the July 2013 decision. For example, the Navy and Customs were able to turn back three boats in December 2013 after the introduction of OSB. It’s hard to believe that it would have been physically possible to turn back 48 boats if they had continued at the monthly rate that occurred in July 2013 and that Indonesia would have quietly acquiesced. 

In short, Tony Abbot in Opposition gave the green light to people smugglers by opposing the implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement in September 2011. In Government, Operation Sovereign Borders, had a marginal effect on boat arrivals. By the time OSB came into effect, the number of boat arrivals had been dramatically reduced.

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John Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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