Wolf howls, beer coasters, small targets

It’s fair to say that supporters of the centre-left can not plausibly be heartened by the actions of Julia Gillard’s actions since her coup d’état. As Michelle Grattan points out in the Sydney Morning Herald today, the rumblings we are hearing from the Gillard Government on asylum seekers are much less dog whistles than wolf howls. This is naked electioneering at its most breathtaking. It is not just that the East Timor Solution is effectively a carbon copy (admittedly with a bit of spit and polish) of the Howard Government’s own maligned offshore processing regime. It’s not just a question of whether the government is leaning self-consciously to the right, it’s becoming a question of good policy-making and good governance. With an election pending, issue neutralisation in the shortest time possible has been the order of the day for the past two weeks for Julia Gillard’s team. Political fixes to get the government to what it feels to be a defendable position in the outer suburbs before the election have been the focus, at the clear expense of well-thought out, well-planned policy solutions. Suddenly, it would seem, both major federal parties have succumbed to the lure of thought bubble, “back of a beer coaster” politics.

No formal deal appears to have been brokered or serious talks undertaken with the governments of East Timor or New Zealand regarding the approach that the government wishes to take to their supposedly collaborative asylum processing solution. It has been reported that President Jose-Ramos Horta was only contacted in relation to the proposal a matter of hours before it was announced. Meanwhile, as two of Labor’s most senior and most widely respected policy champions make haste to abandon ship, I wonder just how many Labor supporters out there are wondering what on Earth is going on? And I wonder how many non-aligned voters in outer suburban swing seats are starting to think that what Julia Gillard really does stand for is even less apparent than what Kevin Rudd stood for?

If the trend of recent weeks continues, Federal Labor will have created a very stark contrast between its dissembling leadership team and Tony Abbott, whose opinions on a wide range of issues are comparatively rigid and consistent and firmly held, even if they are controversial and /or abhorrent. And Federal Labor still has a little problem called the Senate that it doesn’t seem to have been putting too much thought into. A prolonged, damaging debate on the cut-down resource tax and asylum seeker issues seems practically guaranteed for the next couple of years, with the current proposals unlikely to attract the support of either the Greens or the Coalition without significant amendment.

Troubling times.

13 thoughts on “Wolf howls, beer coasters, small targets

  1. Well, it all comes back to the refusal of the opposition to let race die as an election ploy- instead we’ve had three years of them disrupting Labor every time it has attempted to move to a more enlightened policy stance on the issue.
    Therefore, it is theopposition that deserves to be punished at the polls, not Labor.

  2. Paul, sadly I fear the question of who deserves to be punished at the polls bears no relation to the question of who folks in outer-suburban seats feel should be punished at the polls.

    Apart from that – I frankly think that Labor deserve some punishment if their recent performance continues.

  3. Interesting that Malcolm Fraser supports the East Timor idea. Meanwhile Tony Abbott reminds Mal about why he left the Liberal Party by using terms like ‘peaceful asylum invasion’.

    A slow re-reading of Gillard’s speech might be a good place to assess Julia’s position on the issue.

  4. Admittedly I haven’t yet read the full speech transcript yet Kevin. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised? Bloody well hope so!

  5. The comment from Kevin Rennie concerning Timor L’Este is an ideas that crossed my mind, too. It could have been a boon if handled in the right way and financed properly, of course leaving permanent infrastructure for the Timorese (hospital, roads), when any detention facility (if any) is hopefully winding back.
    But that would mean having to improve the lot of the unfortunates in Indonesia also, particular the ones now long term who need to be the first got out.
    Would the Australian government and people have been too stingy to put money into East Timor anyway, even allowing for our favourable position in the Timor Gap?

  6. It remains to be seen if any solution involving Timor will eventuate. Certainly in principle the idea of a regional processing centre governed by a multilateral authority and operating under the auspices of the UNHCR would seem to make sense. It just doesn’t seem at this early stage that Gillard and her team have had enough time yet to think this and work this through.

  7. They sort to avoid pie-kill after Rudd copped a series, with Gillard of to a very good start, but then she took her eye of the ball and coasted into the current mares nest. Why will our leaders never learn to brief with regional leaders when they are about to do something in a shared locale?
    We are just like the yanks in micro as to our own sub region.
    And Gillard ought to be much smarter than what she showed with East Timor and refugees. She must like the taste of lemon merangue and cream, but time runs out for an election call.

  8. There are some burblings around the traps that when it comes to foreign affairs, Gillard is far from the most experienced or knowledgable person Federal Labor has to offer. One wonders how the situation may have panned out differently had the Prime Minister had had the gumption to consult her predecessor about the right approach for initiating these sorts of discussions on Timor.

  9. I think it comes back to the “alliance” with the Americans- Australian politicians dare not offend against the various protocols, agreements, etc.
    Hence they don’t “do” aid in a meaningful way- they are largely interested in maintaining the cordon around third world locales thru military aid to local tinpots, but are quite happy to see the world as beyond remedy; a world determined by the “terrorism” of the innately inferior and envious and only responsive to force.
    The third world has a natural/essential “third worldness” about it that it prevents it from understanding the concepts of “civilisation”, to the extent that “bomb therapy” must be employed to pacify “foreign” folk of an innately troublemaking nature.
    They are on the “other” side; no point building hospitals or educating them or feeding them,let alone wondering if poverty and misery are what really drives them to seek our help; apparently not a buck in it, that can go to the Military/Academic/industrial complex that sits astride the world like a collossus.

  10. Indeed – interesting that we are on the blower to East Timor only now with talk about strategic partnerships when we need to dump some asylum seekers on them!

  11. now nahru is once again offering to be the dumping ground for our problem.

    this has put julia in a right old pickle! john howard must be having a good laff.

    julia – the ‘band aid’ pm. if elected, just watch her morph into a younger, frightful version of julia thatcher.

  12. Indeed! The wafer thin tightrope that the government is walking on is the fact that Nauru is not a signatory to UNHCR’s refugee convention but East Timor is. I think we’ll find that Nauru is more than willing to sign up to the convention in order to get some assistance action from Australia though, so Julia is going to have to work out a more robust stance on asylum seeker issues heading into the election.

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