If Australia’s spies aren’t forging passports, they’re not doing their job properly. Julie Bishop was just stating the obvious. Barrie Cassidy has a good take on the issue. Bishop’s only gaffe was her semi-backdown.
In fact, if there was any doubt that Australia’s spies engage in these activities, the PM laid them to rest by claiming that Bishop had endangered Australia’s security. To do that you’d have to think that she revealed a state secret, and the only “secret” she revealed was a fact that was basically lying out in plain view anyway.
Stephen Smith claims that she has broken a convention “we don’t comment or speculate about intelligence practices…” Says who? And why not? As Cassidy points out the US has had a very robust debate about the treatment of terrorist suspects, and if my memory serves me correctly, we have had some of the same debate here.
My memory certainly tells me that the ALP has a long history in and out of government of criticising the secret services. And with some justification. The information and activities from time to time of ASIO and various state Special Branches was scandalous. Who can forget Lionel Murphy, the Attorney-General at the time, raiding ASIO?
This is the second time Labor has been wrong-footed on an issue of plain simple commonsense. The first time was when they criticised Tony Abbott for admitting that sometimes he goes over the top in debate and that the best promises are those made in writing. We all know that, and that’s the way we all live our lives. For that simple reason contracts are normally in writing.
Labor has a credibility problem, and it is a credibility problem that stems from thinking that politics is simply about being on message and that it doesn’t much matter what the message is. They’ve substituted slogans for reality, and reality is rebelling.
Tony Abbott and his team are not playing this game to the same rules. They are much more likely to say what they think, and the public, if not the commentariat, think this is a good thing. Afterall, they are telling us pretty much what we already knew.
If Labor can’t change their mindset, they really are in trouble at this next election. Like NSW tonight (State of Origin football if you are reading this from anywhere but Queensland or NSW), they are still favourites, but that doesn’t help if the underdogs manage to shape and control the game to suit themselves.
If I were Julie Bishop I’d be feeling just as chuffed as, I dunno, maybe Jonathan Thurston at the moment.