GILLARD’S PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO LEGITIMISE THE ‘MALAYSIA SOLUTION’: A TIMELINE TO THE PRESENTPosted: October 9, 2011
In my last post on September 1, I discussed the Australian High Court’s ruling that the Gillard Government’s ‘Malaysian Solution’ was illegal, and speculated as to what might happen next – the Opposition would make political hay out of the failure of the Malaysian deal, the Greens would continue to oppose offshore processing, and block attempts to amend Australian law to make it (and, in particular, Malaysian offshore processing) legal, in the Senate. And this is essentially what is set to happen – when they eventually get the chance to vote down the proposed amendments with the Coalition (unless the Coalition decide to back the amendments after all).
This is roughly what went down over the last month (as I perceived it):
3 September: Abbott revels in Government’s post High Court Decision embarrassment; pushes for Pacific Solution (Nauru, TPVs, “Stop the boats”)… again.
5 September: Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announces 335 asylum seekers left in limbo after High Court decision to be processed on Australian soil. Duh.
7 September: Gillard says “Up the High Court!”, calls for amendments to Migration Act; writes a letter to Abbott to seek Coalition support in both Houses in order to avoid getting cock-blocked by the Greens in the Senate. Abbott says “We may cooperate… but our policy is still better than yours.”
12 September: a small win for Gillard & Bowen – they get the backing of Cabinet and the majority of ALP Caucus (including a couple of Left Faction members) for their (not yet released) amendments. However, Scott Morrison’s mouth an indication Coalition support pretty darn unlikely.
13 September: Abbott withholds previously offered cooperation on legislation amendments to no-ones surprise; says he needs to see the legislation first. Cynics (i.e. one of the voices in my head) suggest he’s stalling for more boats to arrive and Gillard’s approval ratings to drop into the negatives. The Green’s indeed vow to cock-block the legislation as expected in the Senate. Voice in head loves how consistent they are/ still thinks they pray to aliens.
18 September: Labor attacks Abbott, arguing his non-support of amendments is reckless and endangers the lives of boat people. Abbott retorts that amendments are anti-human rights (Abbott did. Many times. Seriously.) Interesting to note that both the big party’s are now attempting to use human rights to argue the relative superiority of their policy positions. Back in Howard’s day no one but Beazley gave a bugger’s toss. Am mildly comforted by this, but know they are still really full of… it.
19 September: Greens Leader Bob Brown says Gillard no longer his BFF with all these crazy amendment proposals she’s coming out with. Gillard and Abbott still in stalemate over the amendments – Abbott wants changes that will rule out Malaysia but give the green light to Nauru. Gillard doesn’t like those changes, for some reason…
Outside the political idiocy sphere, a couple of advocate group CEOs – Asylum Seeker Resource Centre CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis and Refugee Council of Australia CEO Paul Power (KK and PP as I like to call them, as I can never remember their actual names) point out on ABC Radio that there are no legal barriers to processing people in Australia – in the COMMUNITY (oh yeah, they went there). KK does the hard sell, (again):
“One, it’s cheaper. Two, it doesn’t damage people. Three, it actually builds on the potential of asylum seekers to contribute back to the community and four, it ends the politicisation of the issue and allows us to see it for what it is which is a humanitarian issue.”
He says his own organisation can provide a range of services for less than $5 a day for each asylum seeker. Interesting.
PP has a similar message, saying for those in community detention the arrangements have worked well and there’s no reason it shouldn’t extend to everyone (currently, community detention is reserved for child asylum seekers and their parents).
“If people are given the opportunity to work then quite a number of people are able to support themselves and of those who aren’t able to work or aren’t allowed to work, the level of subsistence allowance that’s given by government to people in that situation is lower than any Centrelink or social security benefit and far, far, far cheaper than keeping people in 24 hour secure detention.”
Likelihood that such a policy would ever be adopted? Low.
20 September: My fantastic teenage niece’s birthday! Oh, and Abbott says NO DEAL to Gillard’s governments… yada yada yada… Chris Bowen rejects the Coalition’s alternative proposal to allow third country processing only in states that are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention (because that would rule out Malaysia, see). Gillard had tried to appease Abbott by proposing new amendments that strengthened human rights protections for asylum seekers but would still allow the Malaysia deal to be revived. Abbott said they were even worse than the original amendments. Bowen called Abbott a hypocrite as Nauru had not signed the Refugee Convention when it was used for offshore processing by the former Howard government. I reflect on the fact these clowns are far more educated, articulate, and highly paid than I’ll ever be, down my Coopers Red, then write an angry haiku about it all.
21 September: Gillard says “Up EVERYBODY!” and sticks to Malaysia Solution/Amendments course like a kamikaze pilot. Amendments introduced in parliament. Opposition plans to blame Abbott for any boat arrivals. Abbott unconcerned, will blame them back. AND THE BLAME GAME BEGINS.
22 September: Debate on amendments, but vote date for bill not set. So the legal vacuum continues, and probably will for a few more weeks as parliament rises for a fortnight break. Opposition says the Government is just delaying an embarrassing political defeat. Scott Morrison says something but I have anti-depressants to take and things to write and can’t be bothered listening anymore.
24 September: Labor warns there’ll probably be a surge in the number of boat arrivals during the two-week sitting hiatus; tries to convince Independent Tony Crook (actually West Australian Nationals MP who sits as an Independent) to side with the Gillard Government. Crook would have voted against the bill if the vote had gone ahead before the hiatus.
7 October: Hear Amnesty’s Secretary-General Salil Shetty remind us all on ABC Radio that Australia’s action on asylum seekers (i.e. mandatory detention) contravenes international refugee law. Yes, heard it all before.
8 October: VICTORIA ALP REJECTS GILLARDS OFFSHORE POLICY AT STATE LABOR CONFERENCE. Garden State, yo. That’s how we do.
They also oppose Gillard’s position on same-sex marriage! Dude!!
Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia national secretary Michele O’Neil described the Malaysia Solution and amendment attempt as a “shameful moment” for the party and was backed by other speakers. Garth Head, a leading member of the Victorian right, spoke against the Caucus resolution but still said the shame was that Australia had failed to take enough refugees (I repeat, Victorian RIGHT).
Next week PM Gillard will seek parliamentary support to revive the Malaysia Solution in order to send 800 asylum seekers to the country for processing in exchange for 4000 refugees. Under Labor’s rules, however, the Government is not supposed to contradict its platform. Something Labor Left has repeatedly pointed out.
This is the reason behind the recent warning from ALP/government senior John Faulkner that the legislation should not be brought forward.
So that’s the gist of what’s been happening with the ‘Malaysia Solution’. For Gillard and her government, opposition outside and opposition within her party. I’m rather nervous about the next federal election. But keep your eye on K-Rudd in the midst of all of this.
In a few days I’ll post about the real stuff – the psychological health implications of mandatory detention for both detention centre inmates and staff, as promised in my last post.
I probably should change the name of this blog from ‘Just the Messenger’ to ‘Just the Malingerer’ – it’s been over a month since that post! I started 2011 with a personal target of 52 posts (one per week). My last post was actually the 52nd post for this year. So, whilst I battled my ISP over account mix-ups and an assortment of telecommunication issues, I thought I’d have a break and attend to the overgrown jungle that is my life. Realised I quite like my jungle, after all 🙂 Must be my tropical blood…