The Morrison Government Is A/B Testing Its Own Dumb Border Policy In Full View Of The Public

Depending on which major Australian newspaper you read, and on which day you read it, the Morrison Government is either steadfast in their assertion that international borders will be shut indefinitely, or it’s about to unveil an economic roadmap to their re-opening. The nation’s top political figures have apparently decided to go full Schrödinger’s Cat on the issue, with both being trumpeted as major party positions within the past 24 hours, in coverage that’s got enough whiplash on it to snap even the most muscular of necks.

In yesterday’s News Corp papers, an entirely shallow “exclusive” interview with Prime Minister Scott Morrison espoused his fairly barrel-chested assertions that the international border would remain closed “indefinitely,” and that he does not “see an appetite” in Australia for that to change any time soon.

The Herald Sun, the Daily Telegraph, and the Courier Mail all ran the double-page character booster for Morrison (effectively little more than a Liberal Party press release published verbatim) in yesterday’s print editions, which occupied prime real estate on all three front pages. The Courier arguably leant on it the hardest in its front page sell, running a red alarm banner claiming the PM would “keep us shut indefinitely.”

In the story, Morrison does not pull any punches, nor are his words misconstrued: He wants the borders closed and closed for a long time.

“We sit here as an island that’s living like few countries in the world are at the moment. We have to be careful not to exchange that way of life for what everyone else has,” Morrison asserted.

Today, however, that tune from the Federal Government has changed fairly significantly.

Ahead of tomorrow’s budget, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is now stating that the Government intends to lay out an economic plan that factors in the assumption of international borders re-opening in 2022.

In Nine papers this morning (published by the same company who wholly owns this publication), Frydenberg spruiked one of his key deliverables in tomorrow’s budget: the return of migration to pre-pandemic levels.

Both The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald ran the interview on their respective front pages today, serving as an almost immediate contradiction to Morrison’s blustering through News Corp yesterday.

In those articles, Frydenberg was comparatively measured in asserting “the borders will reopen when it’s safe to do so, and when they do, net overseas migration will increase, including skilled workers.” That budget plan will reportedly work on the assumption that borders will re-open in some capacity by the end of 2022; a position previously echoed by Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham on Thursday.

Funnily enough, Scott Morrison himself moved to dampen assertions made by News Corp on his own Facebook page, claiming that he didn’t hint at a quote-unquote “Fortress Australia” policy, and that he has never committed to “an ‘elimination’ strategy” or a “‘zero cases’” policy.

Morrison claimed that “these statements were not made,” and that they were “misreported in the article.” Which certainly makes the fact that all three News Corp papers ran some version of those assertions on all three print front pages a bit strange indeed. That includes running the line “Mr Morrison said he had no plans to abandon a “zero cases” target,” which sure as hell makes it look like the Prime Minister said those exact words.

Regardless, this whole scenario doesn’t exactly portray a Government that’s on the same page as far as communication goes. And with Morrison apparently quite happy to wantonly contradict party policy with hard-line bullshit just in case it lands with the public, that doesn’t give us all much of a hook to hang hats on between now and whenever the next election may be.

Testing potential campaign slogans through the nation’s ever-willing press. Ya love to see it!