It is hard to escape the thought that the obsession of modern governments with what the newspapers will say about them creates much worse problems than it solves, especially as those concerned with spin seem to be particularly limited in their capacity to discern the end-game.
If the government had done the simple and obvious thing and directed the Oceanic Viking to take its cargo of human misery direct to Christmas Island to have their refugee claims assessed, they would have been yesterday’s news two weeks ago. Today no-one would remember the issue, unless they found an old newspaper reporting it wrapped around their fish and chips.
I am familiar with all the arguments about them having been picked up in the Indonesian search and rescue zone, but the fact is that they were picked up in international waters by a customs vessel that was guarding our borders. If refugees cannot make their appeal for refugee status to the border guards, to whom can they make it?
As for the war in Afghanistan, describing that as “the right war” to distinguish it from the war in Iraq – a description which was driven by the perceived need to appear hard-edged on national security rather than any rational evaluation of the purpose or prospects of success – is already coming to haunt the Rudd Government. Sooner or later we will face a major tragedy in Afghanistan, and it will be difficult for the government to spin its way out of that one. It is Kevin Rudd’s war now. His spin doctors would do well to contemplate the words of the soldier Williams on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt in Shakespeare’s Henry V:
But if the cause be not good ... it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it...