The present Labor Prime Minister prepares to follow the John Howard approach to refugee-bashing:
In an obvious clearing of the ground for a strong policy statement, Ms Gillard said that Australians who were concerned about asylum seekers were neither racist nor intolerant.
The new PM jumped to the defence of John Howard – the architect of the Pacific Solution and the Tampa crisis – saying the former PM is “most certainly” not racist.
Well, quite. What could be “racist” about getting hysterical about the tiny proportion of visa-less immigrants who happen to arrive in one particular way from one particular direction?
Shortest political honeymoon in Australian history.
UPDATE: The Greens and Julian Burnside QC call Gillard out:
Senator Hanson-Young says instead of having the “courage” to explain to people the truth about asylum seekers, Ms Gillard seems intent on maintaining the current state of hysteria.
“The only problem we have is that we are not treating people humanely and that’s the issue that Julia Gillard needs to address,” she said. “We are not being flooded by people – we take less than one per cent of the world’s total refugee population and yet we are taking hundreds of thousands of migrants each year for economic reasons. We are not necessarily prioritising those who are in desperate need.”
Burnside was even blunter.
UPDATE #2: The “debate” is a demonstration of why broad church parties don’t work:
The issue of asylum seekers is difficult for Labor because polls show many voters want a tougher border protection system, but that could alienate left-leaning Labor voters.
No-one can represent opposing sides of one issue. Labor is going to do its best to pretend to, and will try to convince each set of voters that it’s advocating for their concerns: but it will be a lie. The only way it could manage it would be to implement a policy consistent with its supposed human rights platform (which would involve actually representing its base for once) whilst explaining to the irrationally hysterical why their fears are misconceived and exaggerated, in the hope of changing their minds and gaining their votes as well – but that’s not how the ALP rolls. As Gillard is making abundantly clear.
PS If the Government is seriously proposing “a debate” on asylum seekers, lets hope the media give a fair hearing to the (unfortunately) only party still standing up for human rights and rationality – the Greens.