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'There will be a formal review': Morrison

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is set to be scrutinised in a wide-ranging review after the death of an asylum seeker on Manus Island. Nine News.

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Tony Abbott's straight talking was welcomed after the market-tested patois of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

But Abbott's statement, ''You don't want a wimp running border protection, you want someone who is strong, who is decent, and Scott Morrison is both strong and decent'', is a case of plain speaking descending into plain nonsense. The assertion that Morrison is ''decent'' is one with which some might quibble, although not many in his party room, who see him as a hero.

Tony Abbott

Plain speaking: Tony Abbott. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

There will be less disagreement over his strength. Wrongly directed, however, strength is the very opposite of virtue. Or put another way, a degree of wimpishness might be preferable to cruel certitude when taking absolute control over the lives and safety of thousands of vulnerable people.

That Morrison is a formidable advocate is not in question.

It is just that his strength does rather seem to have overwhelmed all else, including the government's legal and moral responsibilities to those it is ''supporting''.

Unpacked, Abbott's argument is that what many view as Morrison's zealotry is attenuated by the man's fundamental decency. Maybe, but where's the evidence? Why did the minister so readily impute negative motives and apportion fault to asylum seekers in the immediate aftermath of last week's alleged riots?

Why did he initially appear so confident of the role of the private contractors running the Manus Island facility, and the PNG police for that matter, after the violence that left so many injured, one dead and the rest frightened for their lives?

Consider his words: ''I can guarantee their safety when they remain in the centre and act co-operatively with those who are trying to provide them with support and accommodation. When people engage in violent acts and in disorderly behaviour and breach fences and get involved in that sort of behaviour and go to the other side of the fence, well they will be subject to law enforcement as applies in Papua New Guinea.''

''Guarantee their safety … [if they] act co-operatively … [but not if they] get involved in that sort of behaviour''?

Such comments were prejudicial at best. With diminishing evidence of their own moral position, Morrison and Abbott are pleading with Australians to be granted the benefit of the doubt - a benefit they quickly denied the powerless souls in their care.

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