UPDATE: Both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott made announcements about immigration policy today (although why that has become code for refugees when these poor buggers comprise the TEENIEST TINIEST FRACTION of migrants that you can possibly imagine – less than 0.6%).
While JG’s speech (which you can read in full here) was admirably rational, calm and balanced, there are some concerns that the Govt’s decision to resume off-shore processing, this time in Timor instead of Nauru is just another version of Howard’s much criticised ‘Pacific Solution’ there are some key differences including the fact that Timor is an international signatory to the UN’s Refugee convention and Nauru was not.
Meanwhile Tony Abbott seems to be going with the ‘we’ll turn back the boats’ line (you can read their statement in full here) which JG dismantled very effectively in her speech (continuing her approach of stealing all the Coalition’s oxygen and kneecapping them at every turn), pointing out that it was both impractical and inhumane to ‘send back boats’. JG painted a very graphic picture of the human cost of this – sinking boats and drowning children.
But she also called for an end to the extremes in the debate. My view is that instead of telling people it’s OK to be ‘anxious’ about boat arrivals, our political leaders should be educating people that fears about terrorists and stolen jobs are widely unfounded. What do you think?
Doesn’t sound quite so scary when you put it like that now does it? Not something we need to be losing sleep over. Compared to most Western countries, the ‘flow’ of asylum seekers into Australia is a piddle in the ocean. So why is it fast becoming the lynch-pin of the coming election?
Why do Australian politicians – on BOTH sides – have such an appalling history of making big splashy announcements about refugees as soon as an election is a sniff away? Julia Gillard, you’re making me nervous.
As Fairfax political editor Michelle Grattan writes today in The National Times:
BY URGING people to vent their fears about the boats without worrying about political correctness, Julia Gillard is taking a gamble.
She is sanctioning the escalation of a difficult and explosive debate that turned bitter in 2001, and always has the potential to do so again.
Gillard is identifying with those who feel worried about the increase in boats. Of course, she’s also saying people on the other side of the debate should have their say, but it is the fearful she’s mainly addressing.
Gillard obviously believes one essential step is to be seen to be talking about the problem.
// Yes, the subject of refugees is a highly emotive one. I’ve never felt it to be a bleaker time in my living memory of our history than when we were imprisoning already traumatised people – and their CHILDREN – behind razor wire. It seems as though we’re heading back there and fast.