Please allow me to provide context and a sequence of events.
Yesterday I saw this tweet:
My immediate response was “Oh, this couldn’t be true, it’s a mean meme.” **
Looking further afield, I started to think there may be some truth to it, so I went to the source, the ABC Insiders web page.
Indeed, that is how the interview transpired.
I was horrified. Yes, I watched the video. The following pic is a screen grab of Scott Morrison’s expression after Cassidy asks the question and before Morrison answers.
That expression didn’t fill me with happiness.
I accept that as I have experienced suicide in my family, I am perhaps a little more sensitive to what I perceive to be insensitivity about suicide. If I was the young man’s family, I would have been horrified.
I published Could he have avoided overstaying his visa?
Today a fellow conservative took me to task, very nicely I have to say. He pointed out the following:
- The video I had looked at was a “cut down version” (but I don’t know where the cuts are)
- There is always a delay in the comms on these hookups
- He was clarifying the question
I promised to watch the video again, acknowledging my personal bias relating to insensitivity towards suicide. I watched it three times.
The other aspect I took into consideration is I know what it is like to be thrown a curve ball on camera. It has happened to me. I was being interviewed by Bert Newton about German Shepherd Dogs and had my male with me, together with some pups. The male was named after the racehorse Bonecrusher and called Crusher for short.
Cool as a cucumber, Bert said something along the lines of, “It is such a pity Crusher ate the floor manager before we came on air.”
At the time, we were fighting a bit of a battle around the Companion Animal legislation and my job was to assure people well bred, well trained Shepherds are a wonderful breed. This was definitely a curve ball.
The best I could come up with was, “But the good thing is I won’t need to feed him tonight.” Bert is, after all, a comedian and this was supposed to be lighthearted. Thankfully, everyone laughed.
So I’ve been there, done that.
There is a difference between Morrison’s gaffe and the curve ball I faced.
Morrison is the Minister in charge of the detention of people detained for immigration matters. He should have been well prepped for the interview and he and his minders should have expected to be quizzed about the suicide. It was all over the news.
A delay in the comms could explain the expression above. If the comms line was unclear (i.e. he was unsure of the question), to ask if the deceased could have avoided overstaying his visa is, in my humble opinion, silly. Of course anyone can avoid overstaying their visa unless they happen to be incapacitated at the time. An example would be hospitalisation resulting from a car accident. I would hope, however, we as a nation are not so unforgiving as to not allow someone an extension in such circumstances. So to me it was not a rational clarification question as the answer was obvious. Apart from anything else, in his position he should have known it would sound extremely unfortunate.
I also accept that any of us, caught on the hop, can blurt out inappropriate things. The other side of the coin is that this is a Minister of our government we are talking about. He should be better skilled at handling “difficult” media moments.
Cassidy trying to recover from the “clarification” was interesting, I thought. It sounded to me as if he was shocked and was trying to save the day as quickly as possible.
Was I too tough on Scott Morrison yesterday? On balance, perhaps I can put it down to inexperience, but I feel I am being generous. I can’t help feeling for the family of the deceased if they see the video. To those who feel I was being too tough, I trust this follow-up will provide some clarification.
** It has been suggested I am at fault for not having highlighted the meme above paraphrased Cassidy’s question (the original question is clear in the previous article and in the transcript on the Insiders’ website). To me it wasn’t important as my response was driven by watching the video at least four times, the meme had done nothing more than brought the situation to my attention.
As this obviously upsets some people, please note that Cassidy’s question was paraphrased in the meme. Perhaps it would have been wiser for the creator not to do that in the interests of transparency. I repeat the meme was, in my view, a minor issue. So minor in fact I did not mention it at all on my initial article. I only included it above to explain how I found out about the interview at all when my view was challenged.