It is difficult to imagine that Opposition Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison will surrender his high political profile and undoubted effectiveness by signing on to the 22 Houston panel recommendations released yesterday.
The asylum seeker debate has been good for Mr Morrison and the Opposition, ranking with carbon pricing as an issue that has consistently rattled the Government.
This has ensured he is a Question Time constant, one of a handful of Opposition front benchers who regularly gets the nod to take on his ministerial opponent.
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The Houston report today gave Labor and the Liberals a joint starting point from which to roll the Greens, the only party totally opposed to off-shore processing of asylum seekers.
Voters want an end to the parliamentary trench warfare on asylum seeker management. They want something done about the increasing number of boat arrivals.
And today that possibility was presented in the 22 recommendations from the independent panel headed by former defence chief Angus Houston.
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Stopping the boats sounds like a quick and easy solution to the problem of asylum seekers. If the boats don’t come, people won’t die at sea and the problem will pushed further away from Australia’s mind eye.
If only it were that easy. ‘Stopping the boats’ actually means helping to fix some of the most complicated and devastating situations that exist in the world today.
As long as Hazara in Afghanistan (or Rohingya in Burma, or Kurds in Iran, or Tamils in Sri Lanka) face persecution, violence and death, they will flee. And as long as they face abuse and destitution in places like Malaysia, they will flee. And some will flee to a place that offers them protection and dignity, like Australia.
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The biggest single boatload of asylum seekers since Labor came to power has intensified the pressure on Julia Gillard to fix the border protection mess heading into a crucial parliamentary fortnight.
The timing is excruciating for Labor MPs returning to the capital as Ms Gillard’s eminent person’s panel headed by Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, prepares to report on Monday.
Derided as problem out-sourcing, the former top soldier’s mission was always close to impossible: fixing what the Government and the parliament was incapable of fixing when it ended two days of acrimonious debate in a stalemate last June.
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NOW there will be a new Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, who will have the rotten task of taking to the podium with Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston to announce that yet another Digger has been killed in action.
Senator John Faulkner did it too many times.
It was clear from watching Faulkner that he truly hated these death calls. He appeared to feel almost too deeply the burden of being the minister in the government which has ordered its troops to fight.
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