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.

She’s Rattled. She’s Panicking. She’s Hysterical. She’s GILLARD

Julia Gillard is rattled; after her disastrous handling of the carbon tax and her “solution” to the Resources Super Profits Tax, now her “solution” to unauthorised boatloads of smuggled people is about to blow up in her face.

Make no mistake: if Gillard’s attempt to resolve the asylum seeker issue fails, it’s effectively the end of her Prime Ministership.

And if that happens, it becomes a question of “when” and not “if.”

The planets have lined up against the Prime Minister.

She came to her office claiming that “a good government had lost its way,” and promising to fix things.

To fix specifically the mining tax; the carbon tax; and the asylum seeker/unauthorised boat arrival issue.

The whole carbon tax debacle is of itself enough to cost Labor government, courtesy of Gillard’s handling of it.

And the mining tax is simmering along, generating hostility beyond the bounds of any mine — a slap in the face of orthodox economics, and a kick in the balls to the one industry holding this country out of recession.

Those issues alone are enough to fuel a colossal electoral defeat for the ALP; but this government — and this Prime Minister — have a very special death wish.

They have to keep going…in policy directions the majority passionately detests.

Australian people, like it or not, do not want thousands of boatloads of commercially trafficked asylum seekers turning up here every year.

There’s nothing racist or bigoted about it: the country can’t afford them, and people resent queue-jumpers who will do anything to get into the country at any — ANY — cost.

Arriving as they do from third-world countries with no screening or checks, there are particular community concerns in terms of public health, community safety and the common good that must be properly evaluated before these people are allowed to stay here.

Julia Gillard is in a bind now. Having watched as her predecessor Rudd relaxed entry controls to the point more boats than ever before began arriving, and having subsequently knifed Rudd, she faces a massive and potentially existential dilemma.

The ALP under Rudd abandoned the Howard government’s “Pacific Solution” because publicly, it claimed it was inhumane, but privately because it saw it as emblematic of the Howard years and resented the fact that it worked.

When the boats predictably resumed their flow — in far greater numbers than anything Howard ever had to face — Rudd did nothing and Gillard, having rolled him out of office, promised to fix the issue.

Her first “fix” was the “East Timor Solution” for a “Regional Processing Centre” in Dili; something that died a reasonably sudden death when it became public knowledge that not only did the East Timorese not have formal knowledge of the proposal, but that they were disinclined to accept it.

That in turn led to the “Malaysia Solution” in which — to paraphrase — Australia would send 800 of our illegal arrivals to Malaysia in exchange for 4000 of their “processed” refugees.

Even before the High Court ruled this scheme unlawful, the pitfalls were obvious: one, Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN convention on refugees; and two, a one-for-five swap with such a country can only invite the question, “who would they send?”

Malaysia would send the people they really, really didn’t want, and under Gillard’s proposal, we would be obliged to accept them.

Irrespective of their status in terms of disease, criminal history, or anything else.

Thank goodness for the High Court, I say.

And so we are now in the situation where another political slugfest is in play, but this one is different.

Gillard is polling worse in the polls than any other Prime Minister has since commercial opinion polling in this country commenced.

She knows that Kevin Rudd is looking over her shoulder; she also knows there are several other potential candidates for her job and unaware of just who the potential assassin, or assassins, might be.

She’s singularly wrecked her carbon tax through lies and public deceit and a sell-out to the Greens; the issue of a mining tax is, quite literally, a quagmire.

And now that the focus has turned squarely to boat people and illegal immigrants — perhaps because of that issue, but more likely as a result of a cocktail of all the issues and history we are talking about — Gillard now has a hunted, haunted look in her eyes.

Since the High Court voted down her “Malaysia Solution” Gillard has attempted, in a bungling, amateurish way, to wedge Tony Abbott and the Coalition on the issue of asylum seekers.

In the knowledge that no non-government member of the House of Representatives will vote for her supposed enabling legislation to circumvent the High Court ruling and make the “Malaysia Solution” possible, Gillard has clumsily attempted to pin the blame for her own colossal failure on Tony Abbott.

“If Mr Abbott ends the ability of government to process offshore then he must also take the responsibility for the consequences that that lack of resolve will send to people-smugglers,” she told reporters in Canberra. “If they see no resolve then that means we will see more boats and Mr Abbott will have to take the responsibility.”

There’s a few problems with this (and I acknowledge The Australian for the quote).

1. Tony Abbott, the Liberal and National Parties, and the Coalition generally, are not responsible for government policy — Gillard is and the ALP is.

2. It has been Coalition policy since 2001 to process unauthorised arrivals offshore on Nauru and Manus Island, and that position remains Coalition policy.

3. Abbott is right — it is not the role of the opposition to implement or blithely wave through government policy.

4. Abbott and his Liberal and National colleagues aren’t in government — Gillard is. As such it is her responsibility to enact policy, and the Coalition is blameless if those policies are a failure (if implemented) or are voted down in Parliament and never see the light of day.

and…5. Abbott has offered Gillard a way out on this issue — a straight return to the Howard government’s “Pacific Solution,” which worked, with the quid pro quo that in campaign terms he would regard the issue as neutralised.

Gillard and Labor refused the offer point-blank.

But Gillard and Labor can never accept a return to the “Pacific Solution.”

They spent too many years in opposition railing desperately against it, demonising it and castigating it.

And one suspects they are deluded enough to think it helped them win in 2007 (it didn’t — WorkChoices and the general “It’s Time” factor did that).

The “Pacific Solution” generally, and Nauru specifically, are anathema to Labor politicians around the country; to revisit that policy would be tantamount to an admission of defeat, and a colossal humiliation to the ALP and to everything it claims to stand for today.

My own thoughts — as has been the case since the initial policy was enacted in 2001 — are that Howard got it right and that the “Pacific Solution” should have been, and should be, a permanent policy of the Australian government irrespective of who holds office in the Parliament.

I’m not a bleeding heart, but I’m not a prick either.

But to watch Gillard on this issue — even after everything else that has happened in the past few months — is to watch a woman who is keenly aware that her world is falling down around her, and that there isn’t a thing she can do to stop it happening.

Hell, even her sworn enemies won’t bail her out. And when you even need to ask for support from those types of quarters, it’s clear you’re absolutely desperate.

If Julia Gillard and Labor really want to “put offshore processing beyond any doubt,” they should never have abolished the “Pacific Solution;” if they are serious about putting offshore processing beyond any doubt, they have an open invitation from Abbott to reinstate that highly effective policy.

Nothing that happens in terms of government policy is the fault of anyone other than Julia Gillard, her party, and her associates in the Greens and on the cross-benches.

Abbott and the Liberals have their integrity intact: they have held one position on this issue for ten years, and they’re not about to budge on it.

And it the ALP can’t control the policy outcomes from its own government, perhaps they ought to resign.

But they can’t do that: new PM Abbott would instantly advise an election, at which Labor would be blasted to smithereens.

In the past few days, as the political debate has swung back onto boat arrivals and asylum seekers, we’ve seen the Prime Minister panic, bluster, and make hysterical pronouncements that, whilst aimed at anyone and everyone outside her comfortable little circle, reflect solely and squarely on herself and on her government.

I think she/they are finished — and she at least knows it.

It’s time to put them out of their misery, and give the country the election for which it is so desperately crying out.

What do people think?