Scott Morrison’s staff, through Karen Andrews’ office, sent a clear message to Border Force officials on Election Day that they wanted the department to publicize the interception of a Sri Lankan boat, Guardian Australia said.
While an investigation into the politically charged incident is underway, people familiar with last Saturday’s events have confirmed that according to current information, Andrews employees made it clear to officials that Morrison wanted the interception of the boat publicized . They also said they wanted the opposition to be informed of the incident as the caretaker convention was in place.
Border Force officials began drafting a statement confirming the interception and preparing separate fact-finding materials for the opposition, but made it clear to senior ministry officials that publication of the interception or briefing of the opposition could only be made with the authority of the Home Affairs Minister. Political employees were not authorized to direct officials.
People familiar with the day’s events have told Guardian Australia Andrews’ ministerial staff that the two measures – going ahead with the statement and informing Labor – have been approved.
The officials brooded highly unusual political interventionthey believed that any such direction from Andrews was lawful and within ministerial authority.
Operation Sovereign Borders reports directly to the Home Secretary since Morrison established the deterrence structure in 2013.
While confident that Andrews’ direction was within their authority, officials felt that a judgment as to whether or not the direction was in accordance with the spirit of the caretaker convention was a matter for their political masters.
Andrews’ office confirmed to Guardian Australia that she was given a “copy of the statement prior to its publication”, something like that She had previously told the ABC.
But a spokesman said Andrews’ office was never asked to authorize the release of the media release.
Home Secretary Mike Pezzullo has asked for a forensic timeline of events to inform the new prime minister. Anton Albanese, and the new interior minister. A report on the incident is due to be handed over to the government on Monday.
The unusual media release from border guards paved the way for a final political offensive by the Liberal campaign, which distributed texts to voters on Saturday afternoon about key voters, warning them that only by electing Liberals could they maintain safe borders.
Last Saturday, a spokesman for the Liberal NSW party confirmed that the party broadcast the text, adding: “As Australians head to the vote today, it is important that they are informed of the election ahead”.
At noon on Election Day, Morrison confirmed the interception after voting at Lilli Pilli Public School. “This ship was intercepted in accordance with government policy and they are following these normal protocols,” the then-Prime Minister told reporters.
“I can only say that. I was here to stop that boat, but in order for me to be there to stop those who might come from here, you must vote Liberals and Nationals today. In the interest of full transparency in the middle of the election campaign, the Labor Party was made aware of this.”
Albanese said Friday Morrison’s office contacted his office Saturday afternoon regarding the boat’s arrival.
The Prime Minister said his office had suggested to Morrison’s staff that it was “completely inappropriate to politicize this event” and called it “a clear breach of the government’s janitorial conventions” during an election.
Albanese accused the coalition of engaging in “a shameful act” and “an abuse of due process”.
“There was nothing normal about the protocols that weren’t being followed here,” Albanese said in an interview with ABC AM radio. “This was a decision by Scott Morrison in a desperate attempt to launch a last-minute scare campaign.”
Albanese noted that in his previous role as Immigration Secretary, Morrison had previously declined to comment on “matters on the water”.
“Clearly, this statement was made to facilitate the sending of, we’re not sure how many, but potentially many millions of text messages to voters in a last-minute fear campaign,” Albanese said.
“It was a total misuse of due process and a disgraceful act by a government willing to politicize everything but solve nothing.
“It just showed that the government really had lost perspective. They were willing to politicize anything and everything…that was a new low.”
The PM said he had faith in Pezzullo.
Liberal frontbender Stuart Robert, the former Labor Secretary, also made an appearance on ABC radio on Friday morning. He said he wasn’t involved in the boat announcement but didn’t shy away from it.
“I can’t comment as I’m not involved but I think all Australians understand that Labor is incredibly weak on boat arrivals because of history,” said Robert.
“I will not be giving Labor lectures on Janitors’ Congresses or boat arrivals.”
In the ABC interview earlier this week, when asked if she authorized the statement, Andrews initially didn’t respond directly, saying the media release was a “very factual statement.”
“I think it was an important thing given that it was election day and there had to be transparency. A Labor Party briefing was also immediately offered,” she said.
Pressed again by journalist Michael Rowland, she replied: “I saw the statement before it was published. There is a second edition of texts that have been sent. I had nothing to do with the text messages.”
Scott Morrison’s staff urged border troops to publicize Sri Lanka boat interception on election day | Scott Morrison
Source link Scott Morrison’s staff urged border troops to publicize Sri Lanka boat interception on election day | Scott Morrison