During the past week, a political scandal without precedence has entered the arena, one that truly defies belief [more than most scandals of late]. After reports emerged over people smugglers allegedly being paid off by Australian officials to their boats around, current and former leaders have taken to the issue in the exact same way you were expecting. Dodging the hell out of it, and praying for the other side to unearth a scandal of worse proportions—to satiate journos’ appetites in the interim, while staffers wrangle for some semblance of damage control.
Asking Tony Abbott, Immigration minister Peter Dutton, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, and now former PM Julia Gillard about the allegations?
That right there? Not the most reassuring response. But not all too surprising, either.
After Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to categorically confirm or deny the allegations—where people smugglers claim to have been paid up to USD$30,000 to turn back boats—and after Labor Leader Bill Shorten claimed, “Labor did not pay people smugglers to turn around boats,” but refused to comment on whether Labor had made any other payments to people smugglers, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard has similarly denied that the Labor Government paid people smugglers to turn around boats while she was in office.
“We didn’t have the same policy about turning boats around, so no,” Gillard said overnight, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, in response to a question regarding her government paying people smugglers.
“It is now asserted, I don’t know for sure, it’s all media reporting that you’re relying on so we didn’t operate the same policy that is under discussion in the Australian media,” Julia Gillard added. The former PM claimed, “Absolutely we worked to try and prevent people smuggling,” but refused to comment on the “contemporary issue” currently faced by the Abbott government.
As of Monday, the allegations have prompted calls for three separate investigations against the Abbott Government. A referral to the Auditor-General has been sought by the ALP; the Greens have submitted for a Federal Police investigation, and the Indonesian Government have reportedly commenced their own investigation into the issue. Meanwhile, pressure is mounting for a senate inquiry to investigate the issue even further.
We relay this once again, because this issue isn’t going away by responding with pursed lips. Tell. Us.
Lead image by Morne De Klerk via Getty.