Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Dominic LorrimerFull Moss Review reportRapes, sexual assault, drugs for favours: review findsSomeone owes someone an apology
Is there no limit to the cynical manipulation of public information to minimise political pain?
Sadly, the late Friday release of the Abbott government’s Moss Review into sexual and other abuse issues in Australia’s outsourced immigration detention centre on Nauru suggests such conniving may have been pushed to a new low.
In political circles, the practice of dropping out unpopular or embarrassing announcements is called “taking out the trash”. The orthodoxy is that with early weekend deadlines, such releases are left off the front pages.
Obviously, this was not just any Friday either but one dominated by the death of a former prime minister. Was this a conspiracy or a stuff-up?
The review in this case is embarrassing because it has failed to validate incendiary government claims from last October that Save the Children employees had been involved in coaching detainees to manufacture sexual abuse allegations as part of a wider discrediting of government asylum-seeker policies.
The government had commissioned the report after it ordered 10 Save the Children case-workers off the island, citing intelligence that they had been involved in either fabricating stories of abuse of children and women or had otherwise engendered behaviour to bring government policy into disrepute.
Critically however, the review could not substantiate these claims, finding no conclusive evidence on which to rely.
Coming on the heels of the tawdry character assassination of the president of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, the timing of this report reveals Canberra’s extreme sensitivity to any criticism of its questionable human rights treatment of detainees.
It should be noted that the government strenuously denies altering the release timing to take advantage of the focus on Malcolm Fraser’s sudden death, arguing it had always planned the release for mid-afternoon on Friday.
This is hardly the most robust defence, given it would be a cynical time in any week. Besides, why not postpone given it had been sitting on the report for more than a month?
The risk of being seen to hide the review in the media maelstrom of Mr Fraser’s death should have rung alarm bells anyway, given the former Liberal’s well-known contempt for the harsh treatment of asylum seekers.
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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.