September 27, 2013
The Coalition Government is trying to ensure it retains control over information. This is a source of power – in relation to opponents and to the media---and it is an attempt to both keep issues off the table and to only have the government's interpretation of the issue in the public space. This will ensure calm, measured, competent government.
A single unified message with no surprises or controversies requires a military-type discipline to be imposed:
It is not going to work on asylum seekers. The boats keep coming--there have been 10 boat arrivals since the federal election. Indonesia has repeatedly warned against the Coalition's policy to turn boats back to Indonesia, which is part of Operation Sovereign Borders. Indonesia's foreign minister has divulged the contents of his private discussions with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop, which shows him warning the Abbott government against taking any "unilateral steps" which would risk "cooperation and trust" between the two countries.
The Abbott Government will struggle to turn back boats without Indonesian cooperation and unilaterally turning back boats won't resolve the issues.
All this stands in sharp contrast to the conservatives' default tactic in opposition: inculcating a sense of crisis and emergency---by theatrically and effectively deploying the language of crisis, catastrophe, emergency, debacle and disaster--and then convincing the public that they are best suited to manage the recovery from the “disaster”. One consequence of this fear campaign around asylum seekers is that the conservative base in Australia has become more inward looking and insular, and more hostile towards Indonesia. Fortress Australia.
They are angry and inflamed and do not see the issue as a passing irritant. They see it in terms of national sovereignty and border security. The boats are a breach of Australia sovereignty. It's a major issue for the conservative base and they see it in terms of crisis and emergency.