Operation The Price Is Right

We’ve heard it thousands of times. It’s a three word slogan, a caricature, and recently, a shorthand way of describing Coalition policy both inhumane and in violation of our international obligations.


By far, the aspect of Tony Abbott’s asylum seeker policy that has attracted the most criticism is the plan to somehow turn around boats holding asylum seekers and shoo them back to Indonesian waters. Apparently envisioning the Australian Navy and Coast Guard as little more than bully-boy escort ships, Mr Abbott’s always seemed confident that very little could possibly go wrong with his idea. Apart from the people smugglers possibly resorting to deliberately scuttling their ships. Or Indonesia refusing to let the boats land. Or, well, anything. Still, Abbott never seemed anything but serene. And today we found out why.

There’s another aspect to the Coalition’s policy. Abbott and his Shadow Spokesperson for Stopping the Boats, Scott Morrison, have been holding out on us. Such teases. Yes, they have a secret weapon up their sleeves – and it’s a doozy. They’re going to ‘smash the people smugglers’ business model’, and they’re going to do it with a combination of Orwellian public relations know-how and good ol’-fashioned capitalism.

They’re going to buy the boats.

Yep. With the help of the infallible intelligence that has already worked so well in stopping people smugglers, a Coalition government will identify which poor Indonesian fisherfolk have been offered money for their leaky boats, and … offer them more. Naturally, the aforementioned poor fisherfolk will want to take Australia’s money, and voila! – problem solved. No boats, no boat people.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Of course, this is a scheme with more holes than the boats the Coalition say they’re prepared to buy. For a start, it depends on identifying which fishing boats are, shall we say, up for negotiation. It assumes our intelligence is good enough – and so far, our record isn’t brilliant on that score. After all, if we were able to figure out who was cruising the docks around Indonesia inspecting boats for nefarious purposes, why not tap them on the shoulder and introduce them to the wonders of law enforcement? Not only would it take a people smuggler out of the picture, it’d be a darn sight cheaper.

Let’s say we don’t know exactly who’s making these offers. I don’t know, maybe they’re running around in Mexican wrestling masks or wearing bags on their heads. Anything’s possible, right? It still doesn’t prevent the transaction from being intercepted, much like a narcotics or drugs bust – and it doesn’t require us to buy a bunch of boats.

Just what are we going to do with these boats, anyway?

Offer them to schools as compensation for taking away the Schoolkids Bonus? Wow, think about it – one boat per child. We could offer VCAL training in boat-building and navigation, with electives in evading the Coast Guard. We could run excursions out in Port Philip Bay or Sydney Harbour – or, for schools further away from the coast, we could just kick out the rickety bottoms and hold a special Students Division of the Henley-on-Todd Regatta.

Or maybe it would be better to put those boats to good use directly combating people smuggling? We could string them all together in a long line and place them just on the border of international waters, so that any boats we couldn’t buy up won’t be able to get through. That’d be a great photo op for Prime Minister Abbott, straddling two fishing boats, one foot on each deck, gazing sternly into the distance. Think about that on a billboard in Indonesia.

Of course, it would be cheaper if we could just get the boats delivered to us, rather than pay for the shipping … oh, wait.

No, the Coalition have a better idea. They’re just going to destroy the boats.

Yup. Stop the boats, buy the boats, sink the boats.

I’m sure the parents of Australia will feel a warm glow knowing that the money they could have used to buy uniforms, textbooks and other school necessities will instead be heading off to another country to buy boats that are unseaworthy, and that will simply be scuttled.

And – what should be the most obvious problem – by saying we would be prepared to simply buy any boat that we were told was up for sale – we would be creating a market. For all the Coalition’s protestations that this would only happen where we had good intelligences, this is a scheme just begging to be exploited. It would be incredibly easy to set up a fake situation resulting in Australia buying a secondhand, rickety boat – and the fisher in receipt of this money now has the option to buy a better boat. Multiply that a few dozen times and you have the beginnings of a series of rorts, or even a boat-buying ring or six. Scott Morrison even acknowledged this during the policy announcement, when he refused to name exactly how much money the Coalition planned to set aside for buying boats.

Perhaps the scheme should be called ‘Operation Fishing Boat Upgrade’. Or maybe ‘Operation The Price is Right’.

Part two of today’s revelations involved the announcement that the Coalition wanted to set up a little something it called ‘Village Watch’. Put simply, this is a scheme whereby people would be encouraged to spy on each other, and ‘bounties’ would be paid if information led to an arrest or ‘disruption’ to people smuggling activities.

Nothing could go wrong with that idea, could it?

While they’re at it, the Coalition wants to put more members of the Australian Federal Police into Indonesia, and even give them some ‘vessels’ to patrol their own waters. (Presumably, these won’t be the same boats they plan to buy.) It’s all about a regional solution – but there was one crucial point missing from the policy.

Indonesian co-operation.

That’s right. This is all about what Mr Abbott wants to do. He wants to take Australian public money – from a budget he says is in such a state of crisis that he must cut entitlements to parents of schoolchildren and low paid workers – and spend it to set up a boat-buying scheme and a spy network in another country, without having even a provisional agreement from that country.

Scott Morrison described this policy as ‘commonsense’. I beg to differ. It could only be more ludicrous if Mr Abbott decided to ride into battle on a Zodiac, firing a glitter cannon at a people smuggler’s boat. It’s the very definition of a ‘thought bubble’ – it sounds impressive, looks shiny, has no substance and is suddenly created from nowhere.

Except it didn’t. According to Morrison, the Coalition didn’t just come up with these ideas while watching the last debate and playing a drinking game.

They’ve been working on it for four years.

Like I said – you can’t make this stuff up. And that’s what’s so dreadful about it.


6 Responses to Operation The Price Is Right

  1. clarittee says:

    It takes a while to absorb this., When they told us of the fantastic idea that they have had for FOUR years. Wow!! Why didn’t they let us know sooner and we could have saved nearly 1,000 lives? ( and BILLIONS of Dollars) Why did they wait till we had this EMERGENCY, on our borders?
    How will the Indonesians receive this “clever” plot with AFP coppers walking around .on their turf. Has it been discussed with them or were the embassies advised only?
    When the “dobbers” are executed that will be the end of that.
    How will a country that has had enough of Colonialism react to this nonsense.?
    I’m thinking of going into boat building over there. We can’t subsidise building of cars here. The NEW thing is Cash for JUNK ers. the money will enable faster, newer boats to be built. This is no bottom of the harbour scheme. this is REAL action from the man of action. ADULT government mind you ADULT!!
    I hope we hear from Indonesia. There are elections there soon and Tony may just help some extreme people to poll better there by his actions.
    I can see their campaign slogans. Turn back the Crazy Men from the SOUTH…. EMERGENCY on OUR border..

  2. Carolyn says:

    It simply gets worse by the moment as far as LNP is concerned. I cannot believe what they will come up with next. It’s frankly embarrassing. I was watching SBS tonight, about refugee camps bordering Syria. This one in particular in Jordan houses 120,000 refugees, at least half of them children. They were showing the children receiving schooling, and the general help from Jordan and the international community to deal with this massive problem.

    And Australia are carrying on like a bunch of teenagers having a tantrum about a few thousand refugees only, coming in rickety boats to Australia. It’s just an embarrassment on a world-wide level. Now they’re going to buy the boats and destroy them? What? Not serious surely. Who are they trying to convince – themselves? Because it can’t be the population…. but then it does seem that a whole bunch of Aussies agree with handling the refugee crisis (a crisis of humanity) as Tony Abbot suggests. He really appeals to the sensibilities of the ‘couldn’t give a stuff about anyone’ man in the street, it would seem. No heart, no humanity, no brains.This man is a serious worry on this issue alone, let alone all the others areas where he is simply frightening. OMG, I fear for Australia. It’s not that I think Kevin is amazing, but he sure has to be better than Tony and his mob. The ALP at least has heart and soul. I know who I’d rather have, but sadly, I’m not sure we’re going to get it. It looks like Tony is ahead, unfortunately.

  3. jasonblogg says:

    Scott Morrison was responsible for a bikini-clad Lara Bingle being on tv yawping “Where the Bloody Hell are Ya?” in Australia’s least successful tourist promotion campaign of all time. Needless to say Morrison’s grasp on common sense isn’t quite as steadfast as his grip on himself.

    Given that Morrison and Abbott (from this day forward to be known as The Skipper and Gilligan) had four years to come up with something, I must admit to feeling more than just a little puzzled with the out come. It is NUTTY.

    However, it does at least acknowledge that spirit crushing poverty does cause desperate folk to do extremely dangerous things & that capitalism does have a role to play in addressing this existential imbalance.

    I think Australia does need to invest properly in its neighbours and seek a regional answer to what is happening with people risking their lives at sea. This latest offering is no real solution, but hopefully it does mark a turning point away from the ridiculous. Hopefully we have now hit the heights of stupidity and this very, very, sad issue will take on a more mature and intelligent dialogue from Australia’s political leaders.

  4. Team Oyeniyi says:

    Great work! 🙂

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