Cry me a river, pollies, then show me a solution
Heartening to see our Canberra pollies moved to tears this week on the plight of asylum seekers. With around 100 deaths in the space of a week, it’s good to know our elected officials care for those who’ve watched their loved ones drift off with the current to their deaths.
But you know what? Bawling along party lines just doesn’t cut it.
It’s not going to fix the problem. It’s not going to stop people getting onto overcrowded leaky boats during the six-week Parliamentary recess, while they’re all mooching around their electorate offices, lamenting that something more could have been done.
Now, I’m not saying federal politicians don’t give a damn, or that the tears are a sham.
But let’s face it, the sobs counted for nothing. At the end of the day, everyone was willing to risk a few more lives for the sake of their own political outcomes.
It’s not surprising the Gillard Government was prepared to give the most ground – this is a horror issue of their own making. They need it to go away.
Obscenely, every new boat arrival – indeed every new corpse – is a political win for the Opposition; a grotesque reminder of Labor’s failed policies and the Coalition’s alternative solutions.
The cold hard political fact is that Labor needs to stop the boats. Tony Abbott and the Greens, well, politically speaking, not so much.
If you think I’m being way too cynical, let’s reflect for a moment on the rage that has filled Mr Abbott’s sails since the last election.
Front and centre has been the carbon tax: if you’re reading this in Whyalla (i.e. if you haven’t been “wiped off the map” with today’s introduction of the tax as Mr Abbott foreshadowed) you’re living proof that one of the Coalition’s sharpest knives has just been blunted.
With the earth still rotating on its axis under a carbon tax, with compensation cash starting to flow to families and with the mining tax having little impact on the lives of voters, a cynic might be forgiven for thinking Mr Abbott needs to maximise advantage using another trusty whipping stick: asylum seekers.
Personally, I think Mr Abbott missed a golden opportunity this week to show real leadership: to win kudos across the Australian political landscape by putting human life before his own ambition to be PM.
And if I’m disappointed in him, I ‘m equally unmoved by Ms Gillard’s manoeuvre of putting forward a “compromise bill” that she knew full well would fail.
I fully admit, in the past I’ve been one of those bleeding hearts calling for more open borders and onshore processing. I’ve decried the Malaysia solution as inhumane.
But as much as I wish that opening our doors and softening our attitudes would stop the problem, we now know it won’t.
And the flood of asylum seekers trying and dying to reach Australia in recent weeks is proof that strong, decisive and bipartisan action is urgently needed.
Ms Gillard has outsourced the problem to an independent committee and says she’s prepared to investigate the reintroduction of temporary protection visas.
In the meantime, why couldn’t she initiate an immediate trial with a six-month sunset clause?
Why couldn’t she immediately declare an increase to our refugee intake – even a one-off – and despatch officials to Indonesia with a swift processing agenda and a plea for asylum seekers to stay put instead of risking their lives?
So stop the tears, people. Stop the hand-wringing and the heart-felt speeches.
When you’re prepared to cross the floor and vote for a united approach that stops people perishing at sea, we’ll know you put human life ahead of your own petty political agendas.
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