A SUGGESTION by Labor’s alleged shadow minister for Foreign Affairs, Tanya Plibersek, that efforts to commute the death sentences of Bali Nine drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have been compromised by Abbott government measures to stop the flow of asylum seekers to Australia is offensive and distasteful. The welfare of criminal filth must never be elevated above the imperatives of crucial policies of governance.
I’m not even mildly surprised by the contemptible depths the ALP is prepared to plumb in pursuit of its objective of tearing the Abbott government apart at almost any cost, but when it comes to using drug traffickers as cannon fodder in the quest to destroy sensible and functional asylum seeker policy in favour of a return to the discredited and disastrous approach of the Gillard government, one wonders just how low Labor is willing to go.
And in the case of its deputy leader and shadow Foreign minister specifically, Tanya Plibersek — a uniquely gifted individual who could have singlehandedly given Labor its future, had she prioritised a path of real principle over the expediency of the political gutter — it seems “principle” of any value is a consideration paid little more than lip service, and even then as an afterthought.
With some incredulity, I have been reading an article that appeared this morning on The Australian‘s online portal, in which Plibersek is apparently cited as stating that the policy of turning back asylum seeker boats from Indonesia — which has contributed to just one boat making it to Australia since the Abbott government took office, preventing perhaps hundreds of senseless drownings in that time — has “impeded” efforts by Australia to get Bali Nine drug pedlars Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran off death row.
First things first: readers know I have absolutely no sympathy for Chan and Sukumaran, and that I believe too much official effort has already been expended on trying to get this pair of recidivist criminals out of a situation they brought upon themselves quite knowingly and in full awareness of the consequences if they were caught; recent articles can be reviewed here and here.
And whilst it may be understandable if Plibersek’s perspective is coloured by the past of her reformed heroin addict, drug trafficker husband, this is no basis upon which to perennially skew her approach to issues of governance that sit within her portfolio responsibilities, nor some justification in itself for the rights and wrongs of what the likes of Chan and Sukumaran have themselves done.
But the idea the Abbott government is making no headway in its endeavours to spare the lives of these convicted and admitted drug traffickers because of its asylum seeker policies is ridiculous, offensive, and represents the insidiously callous practice of the “modern” Labor Party of linking unrelated causes and effects to score cheap and nasty political points against the Liberals.
(It’s the same thing — taken to a new level of piety — as baying for a crackdown on “rich” self-funded retirees who cost the taxpayer virtually nothing as a pretext for shovelling out billions of extra dollars on welfare-addled layabouts in a masquerade of “compassion.” However, I digress).
To be clear, there are two distinct — and mutually exclusive — issues here.
On the one hand is the fraught asylum seeker issue, on which the ALP has repeatedly shown it has no credibility whatsoever, and which Plibersek clearly indicates Labor would restore to the same chaotic farce it presided over when it last held office.
In the article from The Australian she explicitly acknowledges her party, if returned to government, would end boat turnbacks: a key plank in ensuring thousands of asylum seekers are prevented from embarking on the final leg of their attempted journey to Australia, where a do-gooder government of the Left would fawn over them at a cost to taxpayers in the vicinity of $10 billion per year, at a time of precarious economic conditions made worse by the almost criminally negligent injury the ALP inflicted on the nation’s finances but which it refuses to acknowledge even exists, let alone assume any responsibility or blame for.
The resumption of such a situation could also be confidently expected to see the recommencement of asylum seeker drownings at sea, a reality of the Gillard years that Labor also refuses to own responsibility for, and which the wider Left —
Communist Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young in particular — is almost airily dismissive of, evading their culpability for these deaths with such platitudinous disclaimers as “accidents happen.”
Plibersek also makes it clear that a Labor government would return to the failed and/or rejected asylum seeker policies that contributed to the flood of illicit arrivals in the first place: a pledge to revisit the so-called “Malaysia Solution.” The exploration of “new regional partnerships” (read: regional processing centres) that a consensus of governments around the region quickly concluded would be unworkable. And the incompatible objectives of seeing “as few or no boats coming to Australia as possible” whilst “treating people with respect and dignity:” In Labor parlance, well-proven when it last governed, “respect and dignity” is code for onshore processing and the release of asylum seekers into Australian communities.
In other words, Plibersek has effectively conceded that just as it did in 2008, when it inadvisedly abolished the Howard government’s proven “Pacific Solution,” Labor in government would once again open the asylum seeker floodgates: at the cost of incalculable additional lives on top of the needless deaths the earlier iteration of its policy was arguably responsible for.
And it could well be concluded by the naive and/or gullible that in threatening to unleash a “human tsunami” of 10,000 asylum seekers on Australia if our government does not stop agitating for the lives of Chan and Sukumaran to be spared that the two issues are linked at the most fundamental level.
But on the other hand, the simple fact is that whilst the Indonesians — who similarly fight for the lives of their own citizens sentenced to death in other parts of the world, however open to a charge of hypocrisy it makes them — do not extend clemency to drug traffickers condemned to death by their own country.
They have repeatedly made it clear they have no intention whatsoever of doing so in the case of Chan and Sukumaran.
Indonesians have accused Australia of being “soft on drugs,” and — with the grotesque spectacle of our leaders (including Plibersek) staging vigils and lighting candles to serial international drug smugglers at no less a venue than our own Parliament House — it isn’t at all difficult to see why they would make such a charge.
Indonesia as a country is notoriously intolerant of being lectured to, and resentful of external attempts to influence or pressure it: and in this regard, fed-up with the badgering and bullying of the Australian government’s attempts to convince it that two high-level traffickers of narcotics should be exempted from penalties under laws they knew they would face if caught, the remark about unleashing “a tsunami” of asylum seekers in Australia’s direction was a deliberately calibrated, provocative and retaliatory expression of frustration at what it sees as our country overstepping the bounds of interfering with judicial process and outcomes in its own.
The Indonesians know that asylum seekers constitute an explosive issue in Australian domestic politics that is quite capable of destroying Australian governments; the fact they have raised the prospect of allowing the departure of asylum seekers currently located on Indonesian soil at all is an indication of exasperation with what it perceives as attempts by Australia to meddle in what it regards as their own business.
It came at a time their President, Joko Widodo, is understood to be vulnerable politically, and when a tough-on-drugs stance plays well to a domestic political audience in Indonesia — a further pointer to the uselessness of trying to convince him that two persons behind a plot to smuggle almost 20 pounds of heroin through his country should be permitted to evade Indonesian justice.
It is not — as Plibersek would apparently have people believe — some idiot-simple declaration that the Abbott government’s conduct of asylum seeker policy was a direct causal influence on Indonesia’s refusal to commute the sentences of Chan and Sukumaran to life imprisonment.
This latest foray by Plibersek into issues that are clearly beyond her grasp is a reprehensible display of the fact that — as usual — Labor is prepared to say and do literally anything to score political points against the Abbott government, irrespective of how cheap or grimy, and with a complete innocence to that portion of the facts of the matter at hand that its arguments and methods simply disregard.
In the end, the ongoing hiatus of an endless torrent of asylum seekers aiming to get to Australia by sea is a far, far higher policy imperative than saving the lives of two drug tyrants who have only themselves to blame for the predicament in which they find themselves.
Perhaps Plibersek, and those around her, should reflect that after Chan and Sukumaran have been executed despite the pointless waste of resources trying to stop it — and after the death toll from asylum seekers making the dangerous journey at the behest of people smugglers recommences on the watch of the next Labor government as a direct consequence of the policy settings her own words have signalled will be renewed — it might have been better if they had chosen to behave a little more responsibly.
They won’t, of course. Labor no more cares for the lives of Chan and Sukumaran than it does for the hundreds and hundreds of asylum seekers who drowned as a result of its policies.
So long as the Liberal Party and the hated Tony Abbott are torn down and kicked out of office, there is no price the ALP is unwilling to pay.