Thou Shalt Not Apologise

  (24 December 08)
  by Greg Spearritt

Howard Government ministers, following the erstwhile PM’s lead, were never big on apology. Of course, there was no apology to the Stolen Generations, but in other cases too a fundamental lack of human decency was evident.


Did the Tampa refugees ever receive an apology for the false and outrageous accusation that they threw their children into the sea? Did Philip Ruddock ever apologise for the brutality he and his Immigration Department visited upon innocent refugees, including children, by locking them up for years?


Now we have Ruddock, who as former Attorney-General was at the helm of Australian law-enforcement during the Mohamed Haneef debacle, declaring – along with then Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews – that there’s no need to apologise for the false imprisonment and defamation of Haneef.


The icing on the cake is the claim by Liberal attorney-general spokesman George Brandis that Kevin Rudd owes an apology to Kevin Andrews because he “clearly and repeatedly sought to trash Mr Andrews' public reputation”!


Andrews, Ruddock et al probably did think they were acting in the national interest by imprisoning Mohamed Haneef and revoking his visa. But now that they know it was wrong and unnecessary to do that, why not apologise for the harm caused? Unfortunately, as in the case of the refugees, a lack of human decency pops to mind…


Two thoughts on this:

1. Political apologies are usually not work the oxygen wasted in speaking them as they generally avoid a genuine acknowledgement of contrition for the wrong that has been done. It is always expressed in the form of being sorry for the hurt feeling, never for the wrong done or the harm inflicted.

2. Politicians also know that many of their supporters actually favoured the behaviour that led to the need for an apology. If you are trying to hold onto the preference votes of One Nation (and Nationals) supporters, you tend to favour being tough on "terrorists" and "illegal immigrants". Two very slippery terms which hide much more than they reveal. Never get between a politician and a potential vote.

Posted by Jim Norman

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