The Politics    Thursday, April 16, 2015

Facts that speak for themselves, and facts that don’t

By Sean Kelly

Facts that speak for themselves, and facts that don’t
In Canberra, sometimes things are just what they seem. And sometimes they’re not.

Sometimes the facts of a situation don’t really need interpretation because the picture they paint is clear enough.

Asylum seeker news just from today:

1. A former Victorian Supreme Court judge says a proposed new law would effectively authorise detention centre guards “to beat asylum seekers to death”.

2. The US State Department says, “Cambodia has a high crime rate, including street crime. Military weapons and explosives are readily available to criminals.” The Australian government, on the other hand, has distributed a Cambodia fact sheet to asylum seekers in Nauru detention centres, stating that “Cambodia is a safe country, where police maintain law and order”. By Sunday, the first group of refugees from Nauru might have already been flown to Cambodia.

3. The government’s council of asylum seeker advisers has stood empty for five months.

And sometimes the facts are not what they seem.

As evidence, I proffer an astute bit of media management from Malcolm Turnbull. The Australian had some news this morning about the new edition of GQ magazine. Not something that would normally interest readers of the broadsheet, you’d think, but today there was a difference: communications minister and Liberal leadership aspirant Turnbull was on the cover sporting a fetchingly loud clash of colours. The accompanying interview appears (from reports; it’s not yet been published in full) aimed at convincing Turnbull’s colleagues that he has changed, but his apparently attention-seeking appearance on the cover of the magazine’s “Power Issue” risked sending the opposite message. Within hours, Turnbull had pointed out that the magazine’s request for an interview had been accepted before the February almost-spill (though the interview was conducted afterwards), and that the photo was two years old. Sensibly, Turnbull had told the magazine he was too busy for a new photo shoot, which, if it had gone ahead, might have provoked anger from his fellow MPs.

When asked if he would have stood for the leadership if the spill motion had passed, he sensibly chose to avoid the usual blathering obfuscation of politicians: “People would have been astonished if I hadn't.”

If Prime Minister Turnbull runs his media operation as well as Communications Minister Turnbull, then Labor will be in real trouble.


Australia is still the most expensive country in the world. On the bright side, the unemployment rate fell today to 6.1%, surprising most observers, with almost 40,000 new jobs added. Over 30,000 of those jobs were full-time positions. That may be good news for the government. Then again, it may be bad news for the government, lowering chances of an interest rate cut in May to (almost) coincide with the federal budget.

As Crocodile Dundee would say, that’s not exploiting the Anzac legend; THIS is exploiting the Anzac legend.

Tony Abbott has said he won’t touch the $1.5 billion he’d set aside for Victoria’s scrapped East–West Link until there is a Victorian government willing to revive the project. The PM can of course do what he wants, but it is worth noting the Coalition’s decision to prioritise roads over public transport, despite the wishes of the newly elected state government.

Dr Karl really hasn’t done well recently, but he’s making the right moves to fix things now. Last night he said needy schools would be given any money he had made from promoting the Intergenerational Report.

The controversial Sydney lockout laws seem to have reduced assaults. Both critics and supporters have been proven right in their predictions. Areas within the lockout have become ghost towns by night, with an 84% reduction in footpath congestion. Live music has been hurt. And at the same time there has been less violence, which of course was the government’s stated intention.

Me and Sue Cato, dispensing advice to politicians who fail pop quizzes.

Twenty-first century wrap: What BuzzFeed can learn from old media models like Time and MTV. And climate change posters made completely out of emojis

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is a columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and was an adviser to Labor prime ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.

@mrseankelly

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