Greg Sheridan, in The Australian, 14 October 2011, with title as “Both leaders must share the blame” **[see note at end]
THE boatpeople backdown is a huge defeat for Australian sovereignty. It is a defeat in which the Gillard government and the Abbott opposition share equally. And it is a red-letter day for the people-smugglers. The government has now laid out the welcome mat for the people-smugglers and everyone involved in their industry. Illegal immigrants and the people who smuggle them can mark this down as a magnificent victory over the Australian political system. Both sides of politics have failed Australia comprehensively in this area and it is a failure that may be very difficult to remedy.
The Prime Minister says more boats will come; this is the same as welcoming more boats. It makes a mockery of the government’s previous position that it is not Australian policy, or pull factors, but the conditions in the source countries, or push factors, that cause this determined illegal immigration. Cartoon by Jon Kudelka As Julia Gillard acknowledges, it is Australia putting permanent residency on the table that attracts people, and will likely now attract them in their thousands. The government’smanagement measures – quicker processing, bridging visas, community detention – are simply a form of surrender. There is now no disincentive for anyone who wants to live in Australia, claim Medicare, get welfare payments, avail themselves of government schools and all the rest not to jump on a boat. Illegal entry by boats will now be quicker, easier and cheaper than the lengthy process of trying to come here as an immigrant.
The opposition deserves censure for the intensely irresponsible decision to deny the government the legislative tools necessary to enact the Malaysia Solution, and thereby ensure all offshore processing is legal.
There was nothing wrong with that solution in principle. The only question was whether it would work. By demonising it, the opposition demonised offshore processing. Even if it is elected to office, the Coalition cannot be confident that the courts will allow its preferred offshore processing options. And it is highly unlikely the Greens and Labor would allow legislative changes through the Senate to facilitate this.
Abbott might think he could go to a double-dissolution election on such an issue but this would mean effective action on stopping the boats is years and years away.
Australia will now be subject to determined illegal immigration by people who have not undergone a selection process by Australian authorities. Such a process has been a disaster for Europe. Gillard and Abbott both should hang their heads in shame at the legislative paralysis that means we can no longer defend our borders.