<i>Illustration: Glen Le Lievre.</i>

Illustration: Glen Le Lievre.

Transcript of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, at lunch, Monday, July 7.

Waiter: Good afternoon, sir.

Morrison: Is it? That's your opinion and you're entitled to it, but I am making no comment. It's a subjective judgement: it may be afternoon, and possibly a good one - or not -  but I leave assessments of that nature to the prime minister.

Waiter: Of course, minister. Anyway, thank you for joining us for lunch.

Morrison: Lunch? Who said anything about lunch? I haven't mentioned lunch at all, not yesterday, not today, and nor will I say anything about it tomorrow. That's speculation on a matter I have not confirmed, and not at all helpful.

Waiter: Well, this is a restaurant, sir. It is lunchtime. And as you can see, people at other tables are already lunching or happily expecting to do so in the immediate future, and I  had assumed that you had booked a table here to do likewise.

Morrison: You shouldn't assume anything. These are issues subject to the policy framework that General Campbell and I have put in place and I have no intention of canvassing them any further with you or anyone else. We do not discuss At-Lunch operations. This is standard practice and it has been for a long time. We are doing what we said we would do.

Waiter: Which is, minister? 

Morrison: Which is to be cognisant of our international legal obligations and the relevant conventions as they apply and to always act in accordance with those obligations.

Waiter: Perhaps it would help if I listed some of the specials we have today?

Morrison: Again you are making a presumption in your question. I refer you to my previous answers.

Waiter: There's a Sri Lankan seafood curry, served with ...

Morrison:  If that's supposed to be some sort of moral blackmail then let me say that the Australian people do not expect either me or the government to succumb to it.

Waiter: Yes, sir.

Morrison: Anyway, where are you from? Are you here legally?

A LOT of those lines come from transcripts of Morrison's media "conferences". He actually talks like that.  Lunch, border protection: either way it is babble, delivered with the smugness of a man who thinks he is being very clever.

Habitually so. Remember that it was Morrison, in a previous incarnation, who signed off on that disastrous Lara Bingle "where the bloody hell are ya?" tourism campaign.

As he did then, he may have out-clevered himself with this latest load of some 150 refugees afloat on an Australian Customs vessel somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka won't have them back. The UN High Commission for Refugees has expressed "profound concern". An editorial in The New York Times said that Australia "is failing in its obligation under international accords to protect refugees fleeing persecution." Most tricky of all, the High Court has chucked a judicial spanner in the works, which could delay a decision on the fate of these wretched people for some weeks.

Not to mention the sheer, bloody-minded inhumanity of the whole ghastly business. It's thought there are some 40 children "on-water", but the government remains unmoved by their plight. No surprise there. Asked about reports of mothers on Christmas Island attempting suicide, the Prime Minister made that grisly retort about not capitulating to "moral blackmail". He has no shame.

And not too many ideas, either. A government addicted to secrecy and outright lies is now paying a heavy price for its rotten May budget. This has been a shambles from the get-go, for three reasons.

One, because it blatantly dumped a truckload of Abbott's pre-election promises, on health, social welfare, taxation and education. Two, because the budget was unfair to those on the bottom of the social pyramid. Three, because no one at the top - not Abbott, nor his money ministers Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann - made any attempt to lay the groundwork for explaining this supposed fiscal crisis in a way the average Australian would accept. For a government boasting of being the adults in charge, it has been spectacular incompetence.

No wonder the thing is being dismembered by the Senate. And not just the budget, but almost anything the government bowls up. Clive Palmer floats around Parliament House like some great bladder of noxious gas, jerking his Senate puppets into line as the whim takes him. The government veers from wheedling to threatening. Palmer will destroy himself one day, as these self-promoting media windbags inevitably do when the scrutiny becomes too much. But that day is a way off yet.   

WHEN THE carbon tax is eventually gone, Australia will have no climate change policy. There'll be smoke and mirrors, but nothing of substance. This is exactly what the climate change deniers want, of course.

The rest of the world is not impressed. Surprisingly, a senior British Conservative peer, Lord Deben, smacked Abbott this week for dragging Australia backwards.

"We find it very upsetting that Australia should be slapping us in the face and saying we don't care about the climate," he said in a statement.  

"Australia is changing Britain's climate as we are changing yours. It is not just a national matter. We are all in this together and Mr Abbott is recklessly endangering our future, as he is Australia's."

Well said, milord. A life peer, Deben is hardly a bomb-throwing leftie. Formerly known as John Selwyn Gummer, he was a cabinet minister and close ally of Margaret Thatcher, and Conservative Party chairman for two years. It's true he was on the daffy wing of the Tories, famous in Britain for publicly feeding his 4-year-old daughter a beefburger to prove there was no danger from Mad Cow Disease.

But he is no fool. He is now the head of the UK Committee on Climate Change and a force to be reckoned with. What a joy it would be to see him go a couple of rounds with our little flip-flop Environment Minister Greg Hunt. 

Twitter:  @MikeCarlton01