Yes, an odd title for many people. Inferring that the ALP has a soul. But it does have one. Many people in the ALP must have privately loathed and detested the Malaysian Solution. And why wouldn’t they. It was out-Howarding Howard, by presenting a “solution” so diabolical that even Scott Morrison was saying, with relish and accuracy that it wasn’t humane and Andrew Bolt nodding his approving. That should have rung alarm bells at ALP Soul HQ. Morrison looking caring and humane for a start – that was an almost impossible achievement. The other is what the ALP should be running – The Bolt Test. If Andrew approves, people, it means that the policy is not from the ALP. It’s instead from a horribly compromised husk of that party. Or, in reality, from the 1900s model – the one that wanted to keep the cheap yellow workers out of the country – the ones who were threatening the jobs of the unionists who started the ALP.
Today we have had the Member for Lindsay, David Bradbury, pop up (that was nice, we don’t seem him that much out Penrith way) and say that the decision was a “torpedo” for the offshore processing of asylum seekers and that the High Court justices don’t have to “answer the phone” when boats arrive. I’m surprised he didn’t say there needed to be a “probe” into the high court or that there needed to be some “proper law and order decisions” that needed to be made by the high court. It was also telling to see a member of the NSW Right wing refer to “phones” – I can imagine the phones of every single ALP parliamentarian were running hot with outrage, bile and brimstone as they realised that the media and the Liberals actually had something tangible to criticise. Not even Stuart MacGill could spin them out of this crisis. Of course, the reality is that the contemporary ALP spin team get as much turn as Nathan Hauritz (or Michael Beer, Cameron White or Xavier Doherty – take your pick).
The fact it was Bradbury that we saw on TV this morning indicates what is wrong with the ALP’s compromised plans in terms of asylum seekers. This was an outer-suburbs pitched media-centric issue from the start. An advertising campaign designed to “send a message” (oh, I do hate that phrase) to “the world” and “break the people smugglers’ business model”. Using Youtube to promote how nasty Australia can be. All the talk of “business models” is reminiscent of Ruslan Kogan using the internet to break Gerry Harvey’s business model. In addition, Bradbury talking about phones and torpedoes – evoking the language of both tabloid newspapers and Tony Abbott- to point his point across to the Telegraph reading and 2GB listening denizens of Penrith shows that the issue is truly captive to the narrowly focused world of media spin.
And it was ever thus on this issue. Since the Tampa episode of 2001, John Howard and his dog whistle – and its enduring success – has ensured that this issue has been fought on the terms he framed. And now, the Migration Act amendments composed at that time have bitten the ALP. The Malaysian Solution has showed that when it tries to play the game of going away from any idea of principles and soul, what happens is that it doesn’t play the game very well.
The solution smacked of the type of compromise, cynical politics played by the ALP NSW Right over many decades. The same NSW Right that has members who think climate change is crap and have tried every which way to try to manipulate public opinion by appearing to do something about it but with the least amount of impact on votes. This is why there would be NSW Right people with pictures of various Greens on their dartboards, because their presence forced the ALP to come up with a comprehensive carbon pricing scheme that will assuredly lose them votes but win them long term kudos. The Malaysian Solution, however, shows that when the NSW Right have the lead, they stuff things up royally.
If nothing else, this episode shows that the NSW Right playbook should be put away forever. What should happen, but won’t, is that the ALP gets its groove back and turn to the Progressives – for some ideas, not disgraceful, value free compromised Howard-lite policies. The ALP need to draw up a truly compassionate and sensible asylum seeker approach that would involve spending money in Australia on immigration processing centres, more people in DIAC to process the claims, ensuring that the process is quicker and more in keeping with our status as a wealthy and generous 1st world country. No, no – there will be panic and gnashing of teeth and the left will be kept quiet. Let’s see what wackiness will come next. If not TPVs, then maybe the Cronulla Solution. Now, who wouldn’t want to see that?