August 16, 2013
When this increasingly adolescent election is over, the land of the fair go will have cemented its new reputation internationally as the land of the ”go away”.
Like a harrumphing teenager who stomps to his room intent on making a difficult world non-existent, Australia’s mainstream parties are showing they know how to slam a door for dramatic impact.
And they know too, that tantrums don’t have to be based on much. In some cases, the tantrum itself is the object – a desperate plea for attention.
In the latest unpleasant development in the asylum wars, the Coalition has moved to again out-shout Labor’s zero-resettlement boats policy built around Papua New Guinea.
The opposition’s Scott Morrison is not one to take a hollering lying down.
Not for him the quiet satisfaction of knowing the Coalition had won the argument on boats causing a total Labor capitulation.
Indeed, that just brought a new political problem – that the boats may well stop coming.
Labor’s belated entry to the immigration ”Fight Club”, has caused panic and a series of reinforcements to the Coalition’s already comprehensive asylum-seeker response.
First the policy was quasi-militarised with a three-star general put in charge.
Then, it was buttressed with a 2000-strong tent city on Nauru, just in case.
Now it is to be retro-fitted with a zero citizenship rule applying to any poor wretch not already safely in when the Coalition comes to power.
The public policy grounds for this remain unclear. After all, what will it actually achieve beyond the harsh signal it sends out?
But then, this is not about signals, least not external ones anyway.
Rather, it is aimed at xenophobic voters whose shaky grasp of arithmetic has them quaking over the absorption of a group of people – many of whom are already located in the community.
Australia was a founding member of the United Nations and has forged a proud reputation as an upholder of international law, and the promotion of democracy and civilisation.
That reputation is at risk from a harsh domestic political culture which is stroppy, self-indulgent, and deaf to rational argument.