Nothing so humble

The ABC reports that Scott Morrison “climbs down in funeral row”:

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison has admitted he was “insensitive” to question the cost of funerals as families mourned for those lost in the Christmas Island shipwreck tragedy yesterday.

News Ltd reported that  Morrison was sorry for his “insensitive and inappropriate” comments:

A CHASTENED Scott Morrison today apologised for “insensitive and inappropriate” comments on the funerals of asylum seekers killed in December’s boat tragedy.

This is actually quite a distorted interpretation of Morrison’s remarks. If you read what he actually said, as reported in both articles, it’s hard to come to the conclusion that he’s “climbing down” in any meaningful sense. According to the News Ltd article:

He told 2GB “the timing of my comments over the last 24 hours was insensitive and was inappropriate”.

“I know probably more than anyone how strongly people feel about this issue, how angry they get about the costs that are involved and I share that anger and I want to see that changed,” he said.

“But there is a time and a place.”

Morrison is not sorry for what he said at all, but merely when he said it. That’s not an apology, but simply political manoeuvring. It appears he’s trying to conflate the funeral costs with overall asylum seeker processing costs.

If Morrison were genuinely sorry, he’d do the following in a long statement to the mass media:

  • explicitly disown his remarks;
  • show some leadership and not kowtow to or stoke populist fears;
  • make an argument in favour of the funeral arrangements and the consequent government expenditure;
  • make an effort to separate the issue of funeral costs from the broader “unauthorised boat arrivals”  issue; and
  • not immediately go back on the offensive (which would simply dilute the apology).

In reality, Morrison is just trying to have us ignore what he said. The problem is that there are a large number of people who probably agreed with him the first time, and who themselves will just see this “apology” for the meaningless non-concession that it is. Each time a high-ranking politician utters remarks like Morrison’s, it further emboldens the nutters who want to see, for instance, an end to “Muslim immigration”.

If Morrison were genuinely sorry, he wouldn’t try to gain political ground from both the moderates who might think he apologised and the nutters who know that he didn’t. If Morrison were genuinely sorry, he would be trying to undo the damage he caused by passionately refuting his own remarks. He isn’t sorry – he’s gaming the electorate.

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