Andrew Bolt vs Kevin Rudd: A Total Refusal To Answer Anything

PRIME MINISTER Kevin Rudd appeared today on Andrew Bolt’s Sunday talk programme, The Bolt Report; it may be surprising that Bolt was fairly easy on Rudd, but what will surprise nobody is the fact the Prime Minister steadfastly refused to meaningfully answer any question of substance Bolt put to him.

I have to say I was disappointed by this effort; the Bolt/Rudd interview has been given a lot of hype on News Limited websites in the past few days, even to the point of being described as “confrontational at times.”

Based on the version broadcast, it was nothing of the sort.

It goes without saying that this pre-taped interview needed to be edited to fit the available airtime allocated to it on Bolt’s show, and I accept that.

But even so, there are things to be taken from Rudd’s performance.

The unruly mess (and significant loss of life) emanating from Labor’s various regimes on asylum seekers since 2008 was the result of Labor honouring a 2007 election commitment to abolish the Howard government’s Pacific Solution.

This is the facile defence Rudd used to deflect any responsibility on the ALP’s part.

He is sticking, obliquely, to his contention that Coalition policy on asylum seekers and “turning back the boats” could start a war with Indonesia.

On climate change, Rudd refuses to give any specific answer to any question mandating a response to scientific propositions Bolt put to him, or — significantly — to explain his own position on climate change when he disagreed outright with the material Bolt presented.

The Global Financial Crisis is repeatedly trotted out to hide behind whenever Bolt attempts to pin Rudd down on the ALP’s shocking record on debts.

Readers can access the full 19-minute interview here.

I really didn’t think I would find myself saying this, but Rudd clearly bested Bolt today.

Perhaps Bolt was trying too hard to keep the tone of the discussion light, or perhaps it was simply the case that there was too much ground to be covered in a relatively short time.

Either way, I expected Bolt to rip Rudd to shreds, and I suspect so too did most viewers.

He didn’t.

But it provides a very stark illustration of the type of election campaign we seem destined to endure from the ALP; lots of open and empty statements and generalisations, no detail, no admissions of error, and absolutely no accountability whatsoever.

And that’s the point.

Rudd, however much he seeks to run from it, is not only responsible for the entire six-year record of Labor in government, but must be held accountable for it.

Many of the problems caused by this government, that are now clear, originated on Rudd’s watch as Prime Minister the first time.

And rolled by Gillard he may have been, the simple truth is that Rudd voted for every decision taken and every measure implemented by Gillard — good, bad or shocking — during her Prime Ministership.

The fact the ALP is still in office at all, given the finely balanced parliamentary numbers, is sufficient to puncture any denials on Rudd’s part, direct or implied, of his explicit support for Gillard, her government, and the decisions it undertook.

Even if stories of subterranean white-anting activities, undertaken concurrently, are right.

I wasn’t looking for Bolt to tear Rudd to shreds just for the look of it; such a notion is grotesque, and doesn’t serve any purpose in terms of meaningful journalistic scrutiny.

That said, however, I expected better.

Labor generally and Rudd specifically have an awful lot to answer for, and if this is the best effort a ferociously anti-ALP identity can mount, then the coming election campaign may very well be the updated version of “Kevin ’07” most of us on the conservative side expect.

Political Advantage From People Dying? Labor Finally Goes Too Far

Pursuant to my article yesterday, asylum seekers and illegal boat arrivals continue to dominate political discourse; finally — with one ill-advised, incendiary and rancorous remark — the Labor Party’s moral posture on these fraught issues has been obliterated.

I can’t call it a debate; the Coalition position has been consistent ever since the arrival of the MV Tampa in 2001 signalled a determination on the part of the Howard government to deal with illegal asylum seekers, unauthorised boat arrivals, and people smuggling generally once and for all.

And it did: the boats — and their pitiable cargo of trafficked human beings — stopped coming, and the scum who trafficked them were stopped in their tracks.

Bleeding hearts, chardonnay swillers and the Communist Party Greens were outraged. How dare people be locked away in mandatory detention, or issued Temporary Protection Visas? How dare Australia send people to places like Manus Island or Nauru?

The fact is that the Pacific Solution worked; it stopped the boats, genuine refugees who came by boat were granted — once their claims were processed — asylum in Australia, and deaths at sea virtually ceased.

ALP Parliamentary Secretary Mark Dreyfus scraped a new low in political standards today, accusing opposition leader Tony Abbott of “(seeing) political advantage in people dying” after Abbott refused to entertain any further talks with the Gillard government aimed at a compromise to find a bipartisan solution to the asylum seeker problem.

And why wouldn’t Abbott refuse?

As I wrote in this column yesterday, Abbott and his Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison have been shrewd to avoid being sucked into a trap: the overtures of “bipartisanship” from Labor are simply an endeavour to spread the political pain from this issue, and thus neutralise it; there is no reason whatsoever for Abbott and the Liberal Party to agree to anything of the kind.

Let those who criticise Abbott reflect that in a little over a year from now, he is likely to win the Prime Ministership in a crushing electoral victory; to do anything other than he is doing now would be to trash — in advance — whatever credibility as Prime Minister he may have on immigration policy.

The sticking point seems to be the adherence — I would call it slavish, without irony — by the government to its so-called “Malaysia Solution;” let’s have a quick review of that half-baked plan.

It calls on Malaysia to take 800 of our asylum seekers in return for 4,000 of their “processed refugees;” Australia would abrogate all controls, screening and standards over the people it would consequently be obliged to admit to this country.

It obliges Australia to pay Malaysia some $300 million for the privilege of a 5 to 1 swap that serves the interests of Malaysia far better than it does of Australia.

It is unimaginably short-sighted — there’s neither mention nor debate about what happens after boat arrivals 801 onwards are supposed to do.

It formalises the outcome for those asylum seekers who get to Malaysia — legitimate refugees, queue jumpers and less desirable types alike — to bypass several other countries in which they could resettle, and get to Australia instead.

And it has been ruled unconstitutional by the High Court.

Shall I go on?

The “Malaysia Solution” represents a deal struck by the government with Malaysia — which knew the Gillard government to be, proverbially, over a barrel — in the wake of the equally ill-conceived “East Timor Solution” which the East Timorese had never heard of when it was announced.

The “Malaysia Solution” offers no disincentive either to people smugglers nor their customers; if an asylum seeker happens to be at least the 801st arrival, there’s an excellent chance they’ll never set foot on Malaysian soil anyway — and so the whole thing starts again (although I’d wager the ALP is betting it may be back in opposition by then, should such a scenario ever arise).

And whatever else the Labor Party says it proposes, or will concede to the Liberals, it is a stated non-negotiable that the government will not agree to anything that does not include the “Malaysia Solution” at its core.

In light of all of this, it’s no wonder at all that Abbott and the Liberals refuse to negotiate with the government; indeed, they should be commended for that exact refusal. As Abbott said on Fairfax radio this morning, there is no point in negotiating just for the sake of negotiating.

But the comments by Dreyfus, implying that Abbott sought to gain politically from drownings at sea, are so insidious as to barely warrant comment.

Yet I do so on account of the fact that Dreyfus has betrayed the true spirit of Labor’s approach to this issue: carry on like a petulant child, and then — when things don’t go to plan — get really, really nasty.

On one level, though, Dreyfus is right: these matters directly concern and affect people’s lives in an actual sense; not to resolve these issues is to virtually guarantee more asylum seekers will die en route to Australia.

Which is why the Liberal Party position is the principled stand, and the Labor position flawed on just about every level imaginable.

Despite my political differences with them — and those differences, obviously, are considerable — I refuse to believe that the vast majority of Labor’s federal MPs are anything other than decent well-meaning people, even if they are wrong.

Even if a small few show themselves up from time to time to be Neanderthals and grubs, as Dreyfus did this morning.

And I would point again to the Greens, Labor’s supposed coalition partners, and simply ask why the government can’t deal with them? Why does it have to be the Liberals who must capitulate to the ALP and its useless policy, when they have their very own coalition partner at hand?

The answer lies in the fact that really, at the end of the day, the agenda of the parties of the Left is as much about denial of the Howard government and its legacy as it is about anything rational, practicably useful, or remotely constructive.

And as much as Gillard likes to rattle and drone on about “getting something done” (there’s another of those descendant slogans of “moving forward” again), if she simply got on and did something — with the support of her party’s ally, the Greens — there wouldn’t even be a continuing debate.

But there would certainly be a policy failure, and one that couldn’t be wiped on the Liberal Party as collateral, and it is this which motivates the political conduct of the Labor Party on this issue as it seeks to avoid yet another strike against its record in government.

And so, on the one hand, we have a policy that worked effectively as intended for seven years until it was abolished; the reinstatement of the Pacific Solution carries a guarantee of Coalition support in Parliament to bring this issue to conclusion.

That policy is opposed by Labor and the Greens for no better reason than the fact John Howard presided over it.

On the other hand, we have this half-baked, unworkable, impractical and downright naive “Malaysia Solution” which will do nothing in the longer run to resolve the boat/asylum seeker issue.

And now — courtesy of Dreyfus — the Coalition may be even less inclined to bail Labor out than ever; for it is one thing to retrospectively vilify a Liberal ex-Prime Minister simply for winning four elections, but it’s another matter altogether to effectively accuse the presumptive Liberal Prime Minister-in-waiting of welcoming the deaths of asylum seekers in the name of political profit.

It’s pretty sordid stuff. Not edifying. Not stylish at all.

Suddenly — as it has on account of so many other issues the Gillard government has mishandled — Labor’s job to fix this mess got that much tougher today.

Labor’s Sick Joke: Boat Policy Abrogated In Name Of Blame Game

Yet another illegal boat. More asylum seeker deaths. Border policy shouldn’t be squibbed in the name of burbling bleeding hearts and compassion babble; the government can walk softly but must carry and use a damned big stick.

First, an apology to readers: I am still here, and I apologise for my silence; I have simply been so snowed under as to have had no time to pen these articles, working 80-100 hours per week as I have been. Even so, I want to post comment on this issue, even if it is hurried.

It’s become a story so familiar now that I suspect some people have become immune to it; yet another unauthorised boatload of illegal immigrants has met with disaster off the coast of Australia; dozens of people are dead.

And it is about time Julia Gillard and her government shouldered responsibility both for the endless stream of boat arrivals and for the growing number of deaths at sea instead of playing politics.

The latest call for “bipartisanship” — Labor’s trumpeting panacea for every mess in which it lands these days — has rightly and correctly been ignored by Tony Abbott, his spokesman Scott Morrison, and their Coalition colleagues.

I’ll come to the boat arrivals shortly, but Abbott and his colleagues are shrewd enough to recognise the trap and astute enough not to fall into it; and if anybody wants to accuse anyone of heartlessness or bloody-mindedness, they should point the finger in the direction of the government.

When it came to power (and this is an old story), the ALP under Kevin Rudd inherited a border protection regime and an approach to asylum seekers and people smuggling that had literally stopped the flow of boatloads of illegal immigrants bound for Australia completely.

Supposedly in the name of “compassion” and of “humanity,” Rudd’s government quickly set about closing the offshore detention facilities that the Howard government had established, abolishing temporary protection visas, and curbing a raft of other measures that had been introduced to deal with the problem of people smugglers putting thousands of lives at risk each year by sending unauthorised boats filled with asylum seekers in our direction.

Now, the results of this so-called compassion are clear to see; dozens of boats and thousands upon thousands of people risk their lives now in coming to Australia, with the cost that not only can the country not accommodate them, but that increasing numbers are dying en route — as has happened now.

What became known as the Howard government’s “Pacific Solution” unequivocally worked, and the Coalition is committed to reintroducing it.

Labor, by contrast, persists with the cack-brained mentality that anything to do with the Howard government — especially anything it has abandoned — must be avoided at all costs.

And so it consequently persists with its useless “solutions” to the issue.

Far from reaching out to the Coalition in the name of “bipartisanship,” Labor merely seeks to infect the Liberal Party with the venom of its own policy failure, and Abbott and Morrison are right to reject such overtures in the absolute.

And far from being a policy of compassion, the Labor approach to this issue is a policy of death; of Russian roulette with people’s’ lives, and the ongoing tragedy of death at sea as unauthorised boats meet with disaster is a direct and damning consequence of that.

The Communist Party Greens — with their open-the-borders-let-’em-come-and-bugger-the-consequences policy — are just as culpable as the Labor Party; but I would make the point that with their influence over Gillard government policy since entering into coalition with Labor after the 2010 election, the Greens have provided ample evidence that they are indeed the malevolent band of dangerous lunatics most of us on the Right (and an increasing number of people in the centre) have always believed them to be.

And for those asylum seekers who actually make it here, a rising tide of anger awaits them in the Australian populace; it’s not a few boatloads of people coming here now, but tens of thousands of people each year, and the government simply refuses to stop it.

Australian people do not want these people wandering around their communities awaiting processing; they do not want them rewarded with indefinite residence for jumping the queue; and they do not want — down the track — exponentially greater numbers of consequent arrivals in the form of family reunion visas that bring enormous numbers of people into the country and who add — quite literally — nothing to Australia’s society or to its economy.

I believe that family reunion visas should be abolished for all but immigrants arriving under the skilled migration intake, but that’s an argument for another day.

Border policy and the fraught issue of dealing with people smuggling, illegal boats and the resultant flood of people are not things that can be dealt with by burbling bleeding hearts, compassion babble, or on the whims of the chardonnay-swilling chatterati set which is far too trendy — and detached from reality — for its own good.

Rather, the bittersweet pill of a hardline approach is essential; countless lives can be saved, and the integrity of Australia’s legitimate (and genuinely compassionate) refugee intake policies can be preserved.

Anything else from the elected government, I’m afraid, is a cop-out, and a sick joke.

The worst consequences are there — in the form of dead asylum seekers being pulled from the water on Christmas Island — for all to see.

And let’s be clear: those deaths are the direct result of government policy, and have nothing to do with Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison, the Liberal Party of Australia, or any other entity that the Labor Party callously seeks to blame.

Some may gasp at the fact I’m not even going to sugar-coat the fact that the Labor government is directly responsible for the deaths of these people, but that’s one of the problems in this country these days; in the mad obsession with offending nobody, nothing is ever called for what it is any more lest the political consequences be catastrophic.

Yet that’s the way it is; and if the Gillard government doesn’t want to face those facts, then it must — must — forget about this pathetic obsession with the Howard government and reinstate the Pacific Solution it so ill-advisedly abolished.

It must stop playing political football; Labor is in office, and Labor must govern; the responsibility for dealing with this lies with the ALP.

And in addressing that fact, it can show real compassion by legislating policy that will stop asylum seekers dying at sea, rather than its despicable attempts to spread the blame for a policy regime which is, quite literally, a proven recipe for disaster.

Asylum Seeker Disgrace: It’s Despicable, And It’s Labor’s Fault

If there’s one issue in federal politics at the moment that boils my blood, it isn’t the carbon tax; it’s not the recent Cabinet reshuffle; it’s not Wayne Swan’s characteristically inept mini-budget; and it isn’t Peter Slipper or Kevin Rudd. It’s asylum seekers.

And the mess — and it is a mess, for want of a far stronger term — is something the Labor Party is completely and directly responsible for.

In 2001, faced with rocketing numbers of illegal boat arrivals — most notably, the arrival of the MV Tampa — the Howard government instituted a drastic but highly effective policy aimed at stamping out illegal boat arrivals and, with it, the insidious practice of people smuggling.

Islands were excised from Australia’s migration zone; offshore detention facilities established on Nauru and Manus Island; Temporary Protection Visas were issued; and wherever safely possible, illegal boats were turned back.

In short order, the boatloads of illegal immigrants stopped coming.

Kevin Rudd and his sloganeering “Kevin ’07” ALP surfed the jingoistic waves from empty campaign slogans into government six years later; it’s debatable whether the Labor Party has actually achieved anything meaningful in its years in office, but one thing it has achieved it to roll out a virtual welcome mat to anyone who wants to come to this country in flagrant disregard of the proper protocols.

And so here we are: today, hundreds of boats containing thousands of illegal immigrants arrive here every year; it has blown into a colossal political storm, and for reasons best known to the fairies in the garden, it’s all the fault of Tony Abbott.

Can I just say that the terrible tragedy off the Javanese coast at the weekend — when up to 200 asylum seekers drowned when their boat sank — is just that: a tragedy.

But the responsibility lies at the feet of the present government and the architects of its immigration policies. Tony Abbott is blameless.

Shortly after taking office in 2007, one of the first things the Rudd government did was to dismantle Howard’s so-called Pacific Solution. Borders were opened, criteria relaxed, many of the more punitive aspects of the Howard policy abolished altogether.

And the compassion babblers and the elites and the chatterati applauded.

Julia Gillard was given an early warning of the current political firestorm around this issue at last year’s election; whilst mining taxes and broken promises and bad campaigning and knifed Prime Ministers all played their part, the vast majority of the regions and electorates that swung most heavily to the Coalition last year also happened to be those most affected in some way by illegal immigration.

Bear in mind, Gillard actually lost last year’s election: her majority comes from the Greens and Independents on the crossbenches.

Labor — half way through a term of government that increasingly appears to precede its return to Opposition — is panicked; most of the sources for that panic have been self-inflicted, and this one is no exception.

Rather than heed the warning shot across her government’s bow that the electorate delivered, in this area Gillard has thrown all caution and good sense to the wind entirely.

From the ridiculous and merit-free idea of a processing centre in East Timor that the East Timorese didn’t even know about, the government moved on to the abominable concept of a system with Malaysia by which Malaysia would accept 800 illegal arrivals from Australia in return for 4000 — 4000 — “processed” asylum seekers over which Australia had no right of veto and no actual control over their vetting.

All the while, the boats have arrived faster and fuller; the tide of public opinion has swelled further and further against the government on the issue; and the rising wave of panic in government circles over what to do has reached its crashing crescendo.

Now, the government blames Tony Abbott; after all, they say, had he allowed the Malaysia Solution to pass Parliament, tragedies like the one-off Java in recent days would not occur.

But Tony Abbott is responsible to his party, to its policies, and to the people who vote for them; the Liberal Party has been resolutely opposed to the Malaysia Solution ever since its half-baked details were first devised.

And besides, it is a bad policy. As Opposition leader, Abbott has a responsibility to the country to oppose it.

The fact is that Labor has worn many different coats on this issue; every one of them has cloaked disastrous policy.

And the government steadfastly refuses to countenance the one policy that worked: the Pacific Solution, which the Liberal Party is committed to reintroduce.

Labor has learnt the hard way that far from simply being a nasty bastard, John Howard led a government that actually fixed this issue.

Rather than admitting its mistake, it would prefer to pursue any available course of action other than to reinstate the policy it so foolishly overturned.

So which way forward?

The ALP now says it wants to negotiate a solution and has been pestering Tony Abbott to agree to a series of meetings to this end, even going so far as to leak confidential correspondence in which it virtually begged the opposition leader to come to the table.

It is true Abbott has refused to do so, although he has left the door slightly ajar, saying that if the government wishes to negotiate it must first put a new policy proposal on the table.

I’d have thought that was fair enough; but the government has refused.

The entire tenor of the rhetoric coming from government circles is that Tony Abbott should agree to pass their cack-brained Malaysia Solution into law and — if he doesn’t — they, the Labor government, stand blameless for any future catastrophe along the lines of what occurred so recently in Java.

This argument is akin to a thug beating an old woman in the street, telling her that if she doesn’t hand her handbag and money over, the thug is thenceforth absolved from any further injury he might cause.

Today, of course, Labor tried a new tack, suggesting they would be open to a compromise “solution” of their Malaysia Solution operating in tandem with a reopened detention centre on Nauru.

This reeks so badly of desperation I just wonder if whoever dreamt the idea up was so panicked as to be incapable of seeing the sheer absurdity and unworkability — to say nothing of the contradiction inherent — in such a scheme.

Can I just say that no matter how this issue plays out, the ALP has only itself to blame for the utter mess this issue has become.

And on a more basic point: Gillard wanted to stay in office so, so desperately without the numbers after last year’s election; if she can’t govern, and if the Parliament is unworkable, there is an option open to her…

…but silly me, she’d never do something as drastic as calling an election.

Whilst the Left like to rattle on about the heartless Howard government, about how mean-spirited and cruel it was, and how its policies were some sort of humanitarian disgrace, it conveniently overlooks the fact that Howard presided over an immigration program that saw net immigration to Australia, in real terms, at its highest level ever.

And what it also ignores is the fact that to varying degrees, in the past ten years the Australian Left has advocated an open border policy when it comes to this issue, be it overtly as the Greens do, stating our borders should be open to anyone who wants to come here; or on the sly, which is what Labor has done, abolishing all of the protections in Howard’s regime, and rendering the enforcement provisions it retained toothless.

The Labor Party holds office in order to govern.

In this area, as in so many others, it is out of lockstep with the overwhelming weight of public opinion.

Further, the agreements negotiated by Julia Gillard in the aftermath of last year’s election were specifically designed to ensure the Coalition was incapable of controlling either of the Houses of Parliament.

In other words, to ensure the government controlled both.

You can’t have it both ways.

If this issue can’t be resolved, it is the fault of the government and its allies in the Greens and the Independents, who not only have the numbers but have written agreements that stipulate as such.

No no no, this is one mess that the ALP can’t squirm out of; and nor should it be allowed to do so.

Make no mistake, even if Abbott does cut some sort of deal, it will be to save lives, not to get the government off the hook.

And especially given that in this area of policy, the Australian Labor Party — once again — has shown its complete unsuitability for office, and that it is totally unfit to govern.