The Coalition has been sticking its knives into the Rudd Government in recent months on asylum seekers, and a lot of the knives have been sticking. It is undoubtedly the case that significant push factors have been in play in recent years that haven’t been there previously, but I think its equally fair to say that the government has done a poor job of managing its communications on immigration issues. In its efforts to sell the humanity of its policies to progressive voters locally, Federal Labor has probably not done enough to present a relatively firm (but fair) line to the international community. On this score, tomorrow’s episode of Insight on SBS should prove interesting:
This week an alleged people smuggler speaks exclusively to Insight about why he thinks more boats are arriving. And his comments are explosive.
“People see Australia as easy. After three or four months it’s done. The important thing is we definitely get citizenship. We will become Australian citizens immediately.”
Meanwhile, Malcolm Turnbull has emerged from the backbench to remind Tony Abbott he is still around, sticking in a few knives into his own team for good measure:
Referring to the Coalition’s announcement on boatpeople, Mr Turnbull said “ideally” new policies should go to the partyroom. He said push factors played an enormous role.
“There are literally millions and millions of people who have refugee status or would if they arrived in Australia and sought refugee status be granted it under the UN rules,” Mr Turnbull said. ” So the push factor is gigantic.”
The Federal Government needs to get on top of this issue, or it stands the possibility of copping a real pasting as the election draws near. It needs to come up with a fundamentally new approach that retains the essential humanity that the centre-left want from Labor, whilst making it quite clear beyond our borders that we can only accept genuine claims for asylum, and we can only accept so many.
The government’s current approach is, unfortunately, dysfunctional.