The Enabler, Julia Gillard has now ticked off another one of her list of Rudd Government “problems” to pare down, repackage and sell to an electorate used to the Howard years and a media that is itching to criticise anything the ALP is prepared to reform. Next on her list to neutralise as an issue has been immigration and those pesky boats. It’s all about the boats for the boglectorate, because arrival by boat grabs their imagination. Whips up their fears like nothing else. Hence its absurd magnification in the public’s imagination. I remember when John Howard grasped the Tampa as a chance to look tough and thought he was a shocking old cynic like always. However, he does have a red headed successor. And for this one, she has not repackaged Rudd reforms, she has grabbed a page from the Howard playbook and mutated it.
Though, to be fair, it wasn’t taken from Howard – it looks an awful lot like the “2 for 1” Refugee Policy developed by the Democratic Labor Party. And we all thought Tony Abbott was the bearer of the DLP flame. First, we have Gillard wanting to stop gay marriage, spending money on school chaplains and now this.
This is from the platform by Tony Zegenhegen, the Queensland DLP candidate in the 2010 election –
“The best way to shut down the people smugglers and corrupt bureaucrats is by making arrangements with existing camps in the region. There are thousands of legitimate refugees (some in their second generation) waiting to be resettled in camps in Pakistan and on the Thai-Burma border. The Democratic Labor Party plan is for Australia to transport asylum seekers arriving by boat to the end of queue in these camps for processing, and in return accept from the camps two legitimate refugees for each asylum seeker delivered by Australia.”
Two for one – not four for one. And no Malaysia. But the idea is there. Now let’s see the Labor Party – try to use this justification for the plan –
“The DLP two-for one plan would be an attractive arrangement for organizations such as the Thai Burma Border Consortium which provides for 160,000 refugees in ten camps.The certainty of being delivered to one of these camps in exchange for two already-processed refugees would be a powerful disincentive to the sorts of people who presently imagine that Australia has an open door for anyone wealthy enough to pay the people smugglers.”
So, here we are – and people are concerned about the Greens having an influence over policy. This time it’s the rump of the old Disgruntled Liturgical Patronisers having the influence.
Having said that, the Malaysia solution is something so epically wrong, hypocritical and morally bankrupt that it might actually work for the ALP. Sending boat arrived asylum seekers to a nation with questionable human rights records and who has not seen fit to sign the UN Refugee Convention is something not even Scott Morrison could have dreamed about. Malaysia has gone from being a reviled state with a “recalcitrant” Prime Minister to being our new friends – though friends who are still unwilling to sign the UN Refugee Convention, despite the sweetness of the deal for the Malaysians.
The ALP continually rebuffed the Nauru solution in the 2010 election by saying Nauru had not signed the UN Resolution. We can see that now as lulling the Liberals into a false sense of security. Now the Liberals plan – having the asylum seekers out in quiet, peaceful but hot Nauru (the place now has a functional government, unlike last year) seems fairly mild in comparison. These new asylum seekers will be considered to be illegal immigrants, deal with corrupt immigration officials, live in some kind of refugee camp, undertake illegal work to get money, deal with problems that are already causing desperate people to escape and spend years waiting to be processed. Already, we have The Australian and news channels racing to catalogue stories of horror and violence facing these “illegals” in Malaysia. I am picturing Channel 7 already lining up a Malaysian Border Security series.
Mind you, this hasn’t stopped the Sydney Daily Telegraph from doing what they do best, criticising the Government no matter what – now complaining about the cost of this Malaysian solution, echoing Joe Hockey’s line. Tony Abbott is now inventing a scenario where the people smugglers put unaccompanied children on boats, so they get processed – a conspiracy theory worthy of Andrew Bolt. Though, having said that, Bolt did display agreement with the Malaysian Solution on his Bole Repore (like Colbert, but without the humour). It seems that the opposition has been caught well and truly on the hop on this key distraction while the budget is being rolled out.
In amongst all this is the reality of an increase in humanitarian refugee intake numbers from Malaysia. And they will be mostly Burmese, who have suffered oppression and privation at untold levels – untold because we still know very little about Burma. And Malaysia. What we do know, though, is that these Burmese refugees aren’t Muslim. That will disappoint Scott Morrison, Fred Nile and Cory Bernadi, no doubt, because that will deprive those religion-demonisers of their business. What it will do, though, is give Chris Bowen a chance to tell people why he has a clear conscience about this activity. It also afforded us residents in Lindsay to hear our MP for a change – I almost fell off my chair when I heard him speak on PM.
It won’t, however, fool those new Greens voters who will now probably permanently depart from supporting the ALP. After all, they would say, quite rightly, that we should be increasing our refugee intake as well as processing applicants in Australia in facilities that afford asylum seekers the dignity they deserve.
But dignity and compassion are not on the agenda of the enabler in the big chair. She will now dash to more flash points, trying to put out the fires being lit by Tony Abbott and his gleeful claque of cheerleaders from News Limited. Oh, and having some more chats with the ghost of B.A. Santamaria. Tony will miss him.