Today was not a good day to be an Australian voter. We were treated today as though we are a bunch of racists.
People like to say that voters are to blame for the asylum seeker policies. I don’t think that’s true, anymore than the reason we don’t have same sex marriage in this country is because voters are a bunch of homophobes.
But there are some days when our politicians treat us like it is true. Because they offer up policies that suggest that we want nothing more than to dump as much filth onto refugees as we possibly can, purely because of who they are.
Of the policies put forward by the major parties that I am ashamed of, most concern asylum seekers.
Today however was not one of those days.
The policy announced today by Scott Morrison and his second banana, Tony Abbott, has nothing to do with asylum seekers. It has to do with refugees. It is not about “stopping the boats” – to use that most contemptuously condescending phrase – it is about being cruel to people who have been granted refugee status.
Today the Liberal Party announced that the 30,000 people here already who are awaiting determination of their asylum claims will not be granted a permanent visa. They will be placed indefinitely on 3 year revolving Temporary Protection Visas. They will not be able to appeal their case to the Federal Court. They will not have the same rights as other residents – if they qualify for dole they will have to work for it in a way unlike others living here.
The policy is almost guaranteed to lose when it is challenged in the High Court – and what is more, the number of cases which will be sent to the High Court will serve only, in the words of constitutional lawyer, George Williams as reported in The Australian, to overwhelm it.
This policy will deter no one. There is no need. The ALP already has gone beyond the realms of what John Howard would have thought possible and ruled that no one coming to Australia by boat will be granted asylum here.
We have already let it be known that we’re kicking them off to Manus Island and Nauru.
But for Scott Morrison that seems to be not enough. Worried perhaps that through some kind of absurdity someone from the ALP might end up swimming lower in the sewer than he is, he dived deeper. And he came up with the retrospective policy that apparently will deter people who are already here from coming here.
As Jack the Insider noted of the policy:
[it] is a promise of retrospective deterrence – an oxymoron up there with traditional modern dance. It is an intrinsic contradiction because one cannot be retrospectively deterred from doing what one has already done.
The revolving TPVs are not a deterrent. TPVs are the one part of John Howard’s policy which clearly did not work after they were introduced in October 1999.
The policy (as is the case with Morrison and Abbott’s new version) did not allow any family reunions. So for example a father who gained refugee status could not then bring his family into the country.
So what happened is instead of just the fathers getting on the boat, whole families did. The average person per boat went from 22 in 1998-99, to 56 in 1999-2000, to 77 in 2000-01 and then to rather ludicrous 160 per boat in 2001-02.
It’s the only record regarding asylum seeker numbers that the Howard Government still holds. And it doesn’t take too much thinking things through to realise that the boats asylum seekers are on don’t get more safe with more passengers.
To get a real sense of the bastardry behind this policy though, take this exchange between the ABC’s Lyndal Curtis and Scott Morrison:
Lyndal Curtis: "If they cannot be returned to their home country, for example, the Iranians, if there is not a third country they will voluntarily go to, they remain in detention for how long?"
Scott Morrison: "Until they leave the country."
Curtis: "So potentially for a very long time?"
Morrison: "Well, that's up to them. They can leave at any time."
Note, this is for people who cannot return to their home country.
As Chris Berg wrote for The Drum in June of the idea that refugees should be denied permanent residency risks creating a permanent underclass. People who, because of their status will be unable to gain long-term employment, will mostly be reduced to working for the dole and not working for the dole in order to gain experience to get work, but purely because working for the dole is all they can get.
When you deny a section of society the right to earn a living, and importantly to be able to advance through lawful means, that section will eventually rebel and pursue illegal means of support. This policy is put forward under the overall guise of keeping our suburbs just the way they are. And yet creating a permanent underclass almost guarantees the reverse occurring.
I had a whole lot more to say on this topic – and I did write it. But I deleted it before posting because, while it might not have ventured into defamatory territory, it certainly was full of contempt for this policy and the two men who announced it, and for those who may have advised them of such a strategy.
And they really aren’t worth it.
At this point, the election has become a race to see who is less worthy of our votes.
And today was Abbott’s day to win that race.
I might have passed out at some stage, or perhaps I just went to my happy place that I go to when forced to sit through a dull presentation.
Malcolm Farr told me on Twitter it was “about rocks”.
I went looking for the transcript, but it’s not up yet (Rudd’s site is a lot slower at getting things up than is Tony Abbott’s). I had a look for the policy on the ALP’s website. It’s not there. And of course why would it be there?
Why on earth would you want to have a place where people can find out what you announced that day? Why would you need such a thing when they could have heard it on the 6pm news on the wireless.
For crying out loud ALP, get your act in gear. Pathetic.
Thankfully the live-blogs have it. Katharine Murphy on the Guardian:
It's all about how we transition out of the mining boom, Rudd says at this press conference. He's unveiling an oil and gas centre of excellence. We build for the future, Rudd says. They (the Coalition) "cut, cut and cut." There's $30m for a floating systems research centre. There's a reference to "big rocks, little rocks, hard rocks, soft rocks.
The ABC’s live blog:
“Today I announce we will be investing some $30 million to establish the national floating systems research centre here in Perth. We believe this is going to be a huge potential export platform for services for the future”
A $30 million plan. I’ll be honest I have no idea if it’s good or bad, because I haven’t seen any documents on it.
Today though there was a lot of talk among gallery types that the ALP is done and dusted. Some even predicting a “landslide”.
One of the problems is when you spend you days watching press conferences and looking at polls of single seats with rather large margins of error, you can get locked into thinking that what you are thinking and seeing is what the electorate is.
Rudd’s press conference have been long and dull and all over the shop. But most people don’t actually see them.
I think he does need to get more refined on his message each day. But dull press conferences doesn’t mean the electorate thinks he is dull.
But cripes he is dull.
There was this interesting titbit on the AFR live blog about Rudd’s visit to a shopping centre in Perth:
4.51pm: The good burghers of West Australia we spoke to today amidst the Rudd madness are not quite as set against him and his party as you might think.
A gentleman from Bunbury watching Rudd at the Westfield Carousel who declined to be named says Rudd most definitely had his vote.
He runs a construction cleaning company, and says he earned about $100,000 all up from the stimulus package Rudd engineered during the global financial crisis.
“He saved our lives with that stimulus package,” he says.
Vox pops on their own don’t mean anything. But it’s nice to see a newspaper actually avoid reporting the usually narrative and backing it up with a quote from someone to in some way prove their point.
I haven’t taken too much of an aim at the press gallery following around the leaders, but two examples today from those following Tony Abbott stuck out for me.
This was during the Morrison-Abbott press conference where they had just announced a policy that clearly has a few hurdles to overcome legally.
But someone asked this:
QUESTION: Are you buoyed by the fact that Labor’s approval rating in the central cost of New South Wales, in seats like Robertson and Dobell keep slipping?
Whoever asked this question should be laughed at loud and long. Asking about polls during an election campaign – a period when politicians are actually talking about policy – is bad enough. But asking such a softball, backrub one is beyond useless. It offered Abbott a chance to take a breath while the rest of the pack were asking mostly good policy related questions.
It was even more embarrassing because the next question asked was this:
QUESTION: Just in regards to your plans, especially in removing access to the Refugee Review Tribunal and under a Coalition government are you confident that it would survive a High Court challenge?
A good question that had Abbott quickly handballing it on to Morrison and which had Morrison waffling away for a minute or so.
It was a good question because later in the day Lyndal Curtis tackled Morrison on the same point and he was forced to respond:
Lyndal Curtis: Are you confident or concerned that you may not be able to remove the refugee determination process from legal challenge?
Scott Morrison: "Well, this is the task we're setting officials if we're elected to government.
"I'm just not prepared to accept the situation that we can't return to the non-statutory administrative process to end the tick and flick system that the Government has now been running for the last five years."
“Lawyers will say it can't be done, the Government will say it can't be done, everyone will say it can't be done.”
"We're not going to give up on this."
Oh well if you’re not going to give up, I guess that’ll be fine. I hear not giving up is the clinching argument in most cases before the High Court,
So send the first journalist home; or at least get them to keep quiet and let the second journalist ask another question in their place.
But look it’s not that bad. The journalist could be asking questions of Tony Abbott in the manner that Ray Hadley did today.
Here were some of Abbott’s initial responses to Hadley’s tough grilling:
TONY ABBOTT: That’s right…
RAY HADLEY: Do you understand the significance of this day, August 16?
TONY ABBOTT: Yes, I do Ray because three years ago today Julia Gillard said there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.
TONY ABBOTT: Ray, I have high hopes…
TONY ABBOTT: Exactly right, Ray.
TONY ABBOTT: Yep, that’s true.
TONY ABBOTT: Well, these are very fair points to make…
TONY ABBOTT: But I want to assure you Ray…
TONY ABBOTT: You can add that. You can add that Ray.
TONY ABBOTT: Look, Ray, thank you for that tribute…
TONY ABBOTT: Well, that is a very nice tribute….
TONY ABBOTT: Why are we writing the thing? That’s exactly right. And one of the reasons it has to be said…
TONY ABBOTT: Thank you so much, Ray.