Politics

The Government Wasted $185 Million On A Massive Lie About Refugees

Buried in last night's Budget was a very important detail.

Scott Morrison. The government spent today wasting time to avoid helping kids on Nauru.

Here’s a nugget of information that didn’t quite make it into Josh Frydenberg’s budget speech: the government is now planning to close its detention centre on Christmas Island, just months after spending a cool $185 million to reopen it.

That basically proves what everyone was saying at the time: Scott Morrison’s insistence that the asylum seeker medevac bill weakened borders and must be opposed at all costs was a giant lie.

Let’s recap that lie, seeing as an election’s coming up and all. Back in February, just over a month ago, the Senate passed a bill that cleared the way for hundreds of people detained on Manus and Nauru to be transferred to Australia for medical care. The bill’s passage was pretty humiliating for the government — it was the first time in 90 years that a government had lost a vote of this kind.

It’s what the government chose to do with that humiliation that matters, though. Rather than just accept that it would now have to provide adequate health care to asylum seekers, it flipped out.

Scott Morrison, specifically, took to Twitter to say that he would be reopening the defunct Christmas Island detention centre on “the advice of our security and border protection officials”, in order to “clean up the mess Bill Shorten & Labor made yesterday”.

He claimed this was necessary because the medevac bill weakened Australian borders so much that people smugglers would start sending boats upon boats of asylum seekers to Australia. This was not true, as many people pointed out.

Here’s a screenshot of an exchange between Morrison and Guardian political editor Katharine Murphy at the time, where Morrison just steamrolled right over reasonable objections to insist that his government was right. That was pretty typical of the time — Morrison telling anyone opposed to the idea that they “failed to understand” what was at stake.

Last night’s budget, however, quietly noted that the government plans to repeal the medevac legislation if it’s re-elected, and close the Christmas Island detention centre by July.

That means the $185 million set aside for the project is essentially being spent on maintaining an empty island for close to four months, and blaming this cost on Labor. To be fair, the PM did fly all the way out to Christmas island for a single press conference, so maybe that’s enough justification for the $185 million price tag.

Remember this, when the election comes. $185 million dollars is a steep price to pay every time Scott Morrison doesn’t get his way.