And then she didn’t… Gillard stumbles, Tony fumbles

In Australia on July 8, 2010 at 10:44 AM

Um, seemed like a good idea at the time...

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s leadership that started with a bang, is beginning to look a little more like a whimper after hurrying out some ill thought out policy. With the threat of a quick election now looming, Gillard has tried to sure up some early support by hastily showing her leadership prowess, rolling out her stand on Australia’s illegal boat people.

In a move that could only be described as questionable, the Prime Minster has revealed the ‘Timor Solution’, a processing station for illegal immigrants in East Timor, still reeling from its hard-fought independence from Indonesia in 1999.

The only problem for the grand scheme of an offshore processing facility, is that the East Timorese government fails to see the benefit of this policy to their fledgling country and have yet to agree, if they ever will, to the proposal. Which leads to some advice for future policy makers, of perhaps properly consulting and winning the approval of a country’s leadership before announcing a policy that involves them. Note for the future.

The immense pressure of having to sure up unique election-winning policy within two weeks of taking power unplanned seems to be taking its toll on Gillard. Bold decision making is one thing, her taking the helm when the iron was hot and coming away with a deal from miners was impressive. But rushing out sensitive policy to try to get an edge on the opposition is a mistake, and could hinder her golden-girl election run. She needs to be more careful, rookie mistakes will add up and are ill-afforded at this time.

This in no way excuses Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s dismal boat people proposal. At least Gillard has an excuse for rushed policy given her new role, but what is Abbott’s excuse? He has had two more years to form a concrete plan to deal with this issue, which has been a stumbling block for politicians since the Howard government. ‘Send em back’ Tony’s idea to turn away the boats is laughable and inexcusable. We cannot turn them away, as Australia, along with most of the rest of the world is a signatory of the UN refugee convention, which requires due processing of genuine refugees. This cannot be ascertained by the Navy on rickety unseaworthy boats at sea. Apart from the fact that they have nowhere to be turned back to. Does Australia want blood on its hands for turning away boats that never make it back to their point of origin? Or turn away genuine refugees who might face persecution upon return to their homelands?

We have a genuine problem with illegal boat people trying to reach the Australian mainland, but so far neither leader has come up with a workable plan to deal with the issue. Instead of cheap election bargaining, what is needed is to create a solid plan of action, with a region-wide strategy upon consultation with all effected parties with the assistance of the UN. Turning them back or sending them elsewhere is not a viable solution.

But the truth about illegal immigration, is that most people enter the country legally through plane travel, then overstay their visas. And whilst the boat people problem is a sexier drama, it actually only accounts for a very small percentage of ‘que’ jumpers. A real difference will only be made, when an effective airport border control method, or better and more efficient refugee claimants strategy is implemented. Until then, we will have politicians on both sides, who claim solutions yet stumble.

  1. No surprises here unfortunately. I understand her rational, just as I understood Rudds – Labor was losing votes, either to Liberals or the Greens. Since the Libs are more mainstream, most votes will go that way.

    Howard’s response to immigration was popular with a large segment of Lib voters so best to muddy the water between the parties for the election campaign and decide it on clearer-cut issues where Lib can’t compete (environment, IR, etc).

    The only ones she alienates were likely voting greens already or were likely to have made the move there with the ETS failure. It’s a cynical yet effective move. Too bad it’s people’s lives she’s doing it with.

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