Hanging with the Greens

So its official. Asylum seekers are now the sacrificial lambs, to be offered up by both would-be governments to appease the rednecks who now hold the balance of power in voterland. All thanks to the electoral atom bomb of the 2001 ‘Tampa Election’, reeking damage long past its purposeful deployment.

The one remaining slender hope for the desperate emigres of Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Iran in 2013 and probably for years or decades to come, would be another hung parliament in which the Greens use their balance of power to extract a return to a hospitality of compassion, generosity and good sense, from a minority government.

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Anywhere

And when Manus fills up … ?

WANTED URGENTLY: uninhabited islands, disused prison hulks, surplus orbiting space stations … anything really.

Must be situated outside Australian territory. Managed by someone else. Human habitability preferred, but not essential. Razor wire supplied.

All expressions of interest to The Lodge, Canberra.

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Boats and votes

The new Rudd Government’s emerging asylum seeker policy will be a thing of horror to many Australians, but unfortunately not the ‘right’ ones. What we’re now seeing is the long term impact on our culture of the Howard government’s demonising of asylum seekers, using them as electoral fodder, thereby appealing to the basest instincts and prejudices of a sector of the population.

Fast forward a few years, and we have a Labor Prime Minister who on earlier indications may have developed a policy enshrining decency and compassion, now perpetuating a thoroughly entrenched fortress mentality to appease voters in western Sydney.

The well of Australian multiculturalism has plainly been poisoned. And on these indications the erstwhile Australian spirit of generosity to the stranger, mortally wounded in a matter of months by the 2001 ‘Tampa election’ campaign, will likely take a generation or more to resuscitate, if indeed it ever rises again. For living as we now do in an age of unprecedented political disillusionment and disengagement, with serial hung parliaments a likely consequence, expediency will trump principle in the name of electoral survival. In this cold civil war, swing seat xenophobia will win and the world’s most vulnerable will lose.

If this is so, then the only hope for justice will lie in the moral formation of the next generation.

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Glass houses

The Rudd government is under heavy fire from it’s own constituency on many fronts, most prominently asylum seekers and climate change. Ultimately the two are united by the question of lifestyle. How thinly can a finite pool of resources be spread before the general populace considers itself deprived and cries foul? And as day follows night, any such discontent will surely find its fullest voice on election day.

And there’s the rub, not just for the government but for all Australians. It’s easy to label the PM as “Howard lite” and charge Government and Opposition alike with gross moral relativism, driven by electoral self-interest. “Vote buying!” cry some. “In bed with the coal industry!” say others.

But at least some of the righteous protesters might well live in glass condominiums. Compassionate largesse and serious community action to slow climate change must eventually cost us all in lifestyle, reducing all our options at home, at work, and in leisure.

Our politicians may be vote-driven. But with 3-year terms and a very comfortable electorate, who’d be surprised?


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