December 28, 2013
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has stopped holding weekly press conferences on asylum seeker boat arrivals, instead issuing a written statement with no opportunity for journalists to ask questions.
Mr Morrison put an end to the practice of the Immigration Department announcing asylum seeker boat arrivals in real time, saying this amounted to a ”shipping news service for people smugglers”.
Instead, he pledged to front weekly media briefings on the Coalition’s progress in stopping asylum seeker boats. But he provided his last briefing for the year a week ago.
For the first time since late September, Mr Morrison did not appear before the media despite his office insisting he was not on leave. His spokesman would not say when or whether the briefings would resume, saying the government would have more to say on this in the new year.
”Weekly reports will continue to be issued on arrivals and transfers and media conferences will be called as and when required to deal with any significant or serious events or announcements,” his spokesman said. ”The minister’s office will continue to field inquiries from the media on issues relating to his portfolio and provide responses as appropriate.”
Press gallery veteran Laurie Oakes has criticised Mr Morrison’s approach to the media, accusing him of arrogance. ”He sees it as getting at the press, but it’s not. It’s getting at the voters and eventually I think the voters will wake up,” Oakes said in November.
Mr Morrison’s office issued a statement on Friday saying no asylum seekers had arrived by boat in the past week. Over the week 42 asylum seekers were transferred to Nauru, bringing the population there to 841, with 1229 at Manus Island.
The statement said 355 asylum seekers had arrived in December, a 70 per cent decline on last December. Over the first 100 days of the Coalition’s Operation Sovereign Borders, 1106 asylum seekers arrived, an 87 per cent fall on the previous 100 days, the statement said.
Meanwhile, Treasurer Joe Hockey stood by his criticism of former prime minister Julia Gillard going on holidays last December before Wayne Swan announced Labor was unlikely to meet its pledge to return the budget to surplus, despite himself going on holidays shortly after announcing a multibillion-dollar emergency budget deficit in his mid-year economic update.
”According to Wayne Swan Julia Gillard agrees to ditch surplus then goes on holidays … that’s real leadership. Real courage,” Mr Hockey tweeted on December 21 last year.
But Mr Hockey’s spokeswoman said the circumstances were not comparable and any comparison would be a ”grave disrespect” to the former prime minister, who spent the holidays with her recently widowed mother.
”The Labor government promised a surplus 600 times, then called a snap press conference on the eve of the Christmas break to abandon this pledge,” Mr Hockey’s spokeswoman said.
”The Coalition waited until the third-quarter GDP numbers, which were only released in early December, to formulate a credible picture of the 2013-14 fiscal year. Treasurer Joe Hockey then informed the Parliament of the timing of the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook – giving a number of days’ notice.”
The spokeswoman said Mr Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann faced questions from the media and gave several interviews before going on leave.
Mr Swan accused Mr Hockey of hypocrisy. ”If Joe Hockey wants to be consistent then what’s he got to say about his leader, after proclaiming a budget emergency through MYEFO, then going on holiday to a French ski resort?”