He also said there was no way to "stop the boats" as Mr Abbott had promised.
"We’re all bloody boat people," Mr Hawke said. "That’s how we found the place."
Mr Hawke said he understood the frustration of many voters at "queue jumpers", but said "we have to look at the other side of the coin".
He said the Coalition’s approach to the boat people question was "nonsense".
"We cannot turn the boats back," Mr Hawke said.
"These people have got initiative, guts and courage and Australia needs people like that."
The last bit is interesting. Those who are politically liberal, like Hawke, often see illegal immigrants in very positive terms, as showing ideal qualities. Why would they do this?
It goes back to the basic liberal world view. Let's say you believe that what matters is living an autonomous life. Who are you likely to think best represents this ideal? The Westerner who follows lawfully his own inherited culture and way of life or the Middle-Easterner who flies to Indonesia and pays a people smuggler to land him on Australian territory in order to enjoy the benefits of an Australian lifestyle?
The Middle-Easterner might well seem to better fit the liberal ideal. After all, he has done two things that make him fit the ideal of autonomy. First, he has acted to self-determine his life circumstances in a way that the loyal Westerner has not - he has dared to break the law and travel the seas to do so. Second, he has chosen "rationally" (in the liberal scheme of things) to enhance his autonomy by shifting to a more prosperous Western democratic country, where he will have more resources to pursue his individually chosen autonomous lifestyle.
So to the liberal mind, even though the illegal has jumped the queue, there's likely to be a respect toward him for doing so. He is acting in an ideal way compared to the ordinary citizen.
Most people don't think this way, as they don't share the underlying liberal philosophy. For traditionalists, it is not only autonomy that matters. Our membership of a common tradition, one based on kinship, language, history, religion and culture also matters. So for us, open borders are not to be welcomed and those who illegally cross borders for lifestyle purposes are not to be admired. We are more likely to look up to those who loyally contribute to a tradition they belong to or one that they can realistically assimilate to.
There's one other issue worth raising here. Liberals like Hawke think that autonomy is the key good and that there's more of it on offer in Australia than elsewhere. But if autonomy is what fundamentally makes us human, how can they bear the inequality of Australians having more autonomy than others?
They can't easily do so, which is one reason they are committed to programmes of mass immigration.
I'll put this another way. Let's say you believe that autonomy as the key human good must be distributed as equally as possible. Therefore, it should be distributed equally among the citizens of the state. But on what grounds should it not be distributed equally as well to non-citizens? What justification can be made for limiting equal distribution to citizens?
Liberals really struggle with this. Hawke himself once suggested that you could morally distinguish an Australian citizen from a non-citizen by the fact that the Australian citizen contributed taxes whereas the non-citizen did not:
An Australian is someone who chooses to live here, obey the law and pays taxes
But his successor, Paul Keating, didn't like making any such distinction between citizens and non-citizens. He railed against the "exclusiveness" of any such distinction based on citizenship as it involved,
constructing arbitrary and parochial distinctions between the civic and the human community ... if you ask what is the common policy of the Le Pens, the Terreblanches, Hansons and Howards of this world, in a word, it is “citizenship”. Who is in and who is out.
If you think this way, what can you do to make distribution equal to all? You can move toward a system of world government, but that's not yet in place. So you might instead think it moral to accept as many people into the liberal West as possible. Which, unfortunately, is what Tony Abbott initially committed himself to in his earlier stance on immigration:
My instinct is to extend to as many people as possible the freedom and benefits of life in Australia.
Again, traditionalists don't have this problem. We don't see autonomy as the sole good in life, nor as the good which defines our humanity. We therefore believe that someone living in a less wealthy or less democratic country can still have a worthwhile life based on such goods as family, community, religion, nature, art, culture and so on. Furthermore, as we believe that forms of communal identity are so important, we don't think the best solution to material inequality is to transfer populations but rather to work towards development in those countries requiring it.
Finally, there's a larger point to be drawn from all this. In the short term we are stuck with a liberal political elite and we have to try to influence politics within this limitation. But we won't ever get back to a really healthy state of affairs until we begin to have politicians who don't hold the underlying assumptions of liberalism. Our larger aim has to be a shift in political ideas, even as we attempt to deal with the political problems thrown our way by an ascendant liberalism.