Saturday, October 23, 2010

And after the election?

During the recent Australian election campaign both major parties made a big effort to appear firm on border security. Presumably the focus groups were telling them that this was an issue of concern to voters.

And so PM Julia Gillard made statements like the following:

I don't support the idea of a big Australia... We need to stop, take a breath...

and

For people to say they're anxious about border security doesn't make them intolerant ... It means that they're expressing a genuine view that they're anxious about border security...

Former Labor leader Mark Latham wasn't buying it:

Former Labor leader Mark Latham has labelled Labor's position on population growth "a fraud of the worst order", saying immigration numbers must be slashed...

Ms Gillard's "sustainable" population call was not backed with any substance and was a "fraud" designed to appeal to western Sydney voters sensitive to the asylum seeker issue, Mr Latham said.

"It's clever politics but it's a fraud. It's a fraud of the worst order," he said.

Just a few months later, Latham has been proven correct. Gillard has announced two new policies on asylum seekers. The first is that women and children who arrive illegally won't live in detention centres but in the community. As has been pointed out in the media, this almost guarantees that anyone who arrives will stay. Once established in the community it becomes very difficult to reject asylum claims and to return people back to their own country.

The second new policy is even more significant. The Gillard Government, understandably, doesn't want people getting into boats to try to claim refugee status in Australia. So they are going to allow people who claim they are refugees from anywhere in Asia to be flown, at Australian taxpayers' expense, to an Australian processing facility:

The Federal Government has revealed its East Timor detention centre would see asylum seekers from across Asia able to apply to come to Australia.

The Opposition says the plan risks creating a regional dumping ground that would serve as a magnet for asylum seekers.

The secretary of the Immigration Department, Andrew Metcalfe, revealed in Senate Estimates that potential refugees who reached countries as far away as the Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand could apply to go to the proposed Timor centre.

Mr Metcalfe said Prime Minister Julia Gillard's "overarching concept is that there would be collective responsibility for displaced persons in the region" and they could send them to the centre to determine whether they were refugees.

"Therefore risking your life in getting on a boat would not occur and people smugglers would not be able to offer the automatic destination of Australia in terms of what they are selling," he said.

Mr Metcalfe was unable to say who would pay for the movement of asylum seekers about the region under the scheme, but indicated Australia would bear most of the burden.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said asylum seekers would take the view they had a new spread of countries from where they can access Australia. "They haven't thought through the magnet effect," he said. "They have comprehended that anybody who crosses the line is eligible for processing in East Timor.

"It creates a magnet and you are effectively extending Australia's migration zone to the borders of this region, wherever the hell this is."

Obviously there is going to be an upsurge in the number of people claiming refugee status in Australia. First, if you bring your wife and kids they will be placed in the community and will be almost guaranteed to be granted permanent residency. Second, you can apply from anywhere within Asia.

So, yes, the stance Gillard took on border security during the election was a fraud. That has become typical of Australian elections. Every few years the liberal political class has to appeal to the rank and file for support. And so we get a few weeks of politicians saying things they don't mean and won't follow through with.

We cannot rely on simply casting a vote to really change things - not when the major parties are committed to liberal political philosophies. We need to actively work to change the political culture, so that the people who put themselves forward for political leadership really do mean what they say when they talk about issues such as border security.

17 comments:

  1. Interestingly, many voters see the issues of boat people and migration numbers as one and the same, when in fact boat people are but a small percentage of overall migrants.

    Having said that, it would seem Mark is correct in stating that the number of boat people will probably continue to rise as a result of Labor's new policies. And many of these boat people will be accepted at the expense of those who apply by the normal procedures.

    I see some political problems down the track for Gillard over this issue. And rolling her like Rudd was rolled will not fix the problem, as the public (particularly in NSW) is tired of seeing Labor replace its leaders in order to solve political problems.

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  2. What exactly are the standards that must be met to gain asylum?

    If living in an unfree society is the only one, then every subject of the PRC would qualify.

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  3. "We cannot rely on simply casting a vote to really change things - not when the major parties are committed to liberal political philosophies. We need to actively work to change the political culture, so that the people who put themselves forward for political leadership really do mean what they say when they talk about issues such as border security."

    What exactly does that mean?

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  4. I agree with Leon, Gillard will put herself in real trouble for the next election.

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  5. Pace Kilroy - who is surely being disingenuous - there is nothing even remotely unclear about Mr Richardson's prescription for what we need to do. "Actively work[ing] to change the political culture," as Mr Richardson puts it, means just that.

    I am not intending to second-guess Mr Richardson's implications, except insofar as any long-term reader of his website is likely to second-guess them instinctively. But I should have thought that among other things which Mr Richardson is advocating - whether directly or indirectly - is a long-overdue end to the culture of being (to coin a phrase I have seen previously in the comments section on this blog, though I cannot locate it just now) "the Liberal Party's bitches."

    Ending this culture surely means, in the present Australian context, placing traditional conservative principles above everything else - above family, above friends, above career, above party loyalty, above every ephemeral consideration - until we are sufficiently ruthless and organised to dictate terms. Much as Muslim and Jewish immigrants, though small in numbers, can now do in Australian society with their own (albeit wretched) dogmas.

    In plain English, it means "manning up."

    If Kilroy doesn't like that idea, there are any number of boring and effete pseudo-conservative organisations around the place, none of whose apparatchiks have an idea in their heads apart from adolescent (usually pseudonymous) slagging off at Gillard while pretending that the Howards and the Abbotts and the Camerons and the Bushes of this world are genuinely right-wing.

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  6. A.S Redding,

    In this case its a policy move by Gillard. A criticism of Abbott would be better placed when its deserving.

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  7. We see here the elites working hard to bring in more non-Western immigrants to Western countries, with the aim of destroying the Western nature of those countries. Australia's geographic isolation means they have to try particularly hard.

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  8. Simon,

    The same thought crossed my mind. It's almost as if the expanse of water surrounding Australia makes it too hard for a flood of illegal arrivals, so Gillard is trying to make it easier - much like the situation in the US where there is little effort by the elite to discourage millions from crossing the border.

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  9. Kilroy,

    What do I mean by changing the political culture?

    Two things. First, challenge the dominance of liberalism within the political class. This means prising open the decades long restriction of politics to debates between left and right liberals. This itself requires greater clarity on the right.

    Without this general shift in political climate, it will be very difficult for the traditionalists who do exist to make ground.

    Second, we need more involvement of traditionalists in the political institutions of society, whether these are established parties and media outlets, local organisations, or new media.

    I know, Kilroy, that you are working within the Liberal Party. I'm not opposed to this strategy, but those engaged in it will need to be clear in their principles in order to hold their ground against the dominant, existing culture within that party.

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  10. What I would emphasise regarding my last comment is that we cannot allow the idea that the Liberal Party, as it stands, is an adequate vehicle for a truly conservative politics in this country.

    That doesn't mean I disrespect those who are working within it to push it in a better direction.

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  11. I agree, the worship of the economy and individualism by the Liberal party has done the country no favours.

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  12. Mr Richardson writes, correctly: "we cannot allow the idea that the Liberal Party, as it stands, is an adequate vehicle for a truly conservative politics in this country."

    To which I would add "as it stands and as it has stood ever since Menzies' retirement in 1966." After 44 years of primarily me-too-ist Liberal nihilism, whether laddish nihilism (Holt, Gorton, Abbott), genteel nihilism (Fraser, Peacock, Hewson, Nelson, Turnbull, and, for most of the time, Howard), or laughing-stock nihilism (McMahon, Snedden, Downer), surely even the handful of Liberal activists who actually believe in something - something, that is, other than mere left-liberalism on the instalment plan - must be getting tired of defending the indefensible?

    But maybe the "battered housewife" syndrome is second nature to those activists now.

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  13. Unfortunatly nihilism is a bit of a Western trait at the moment. It happens when you set up all powerful forces that you claim are beyond your control, eg the market/economy, accepted public opinion etc, but which nonetheless people don't really care about or find particularily satisfying. My first priority is to turn the ship in the desired direction, which means using exisiting political mechanisms. If you have a better solution I'd like to hear it.

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  14. There is a solution, which worked in the 1940s and which was very seriously essayed (by the likes of Bob Santamaria) during the 1980s: getting rid of the Liberal Party altogether (just as the United Australia Party had to be junked after 1943) and starting a serious traditional-conservative movement from scratch. This movement would be perfectly welcoming towards those individual Liberals, if any, who actually believed in something other than retaining ministerial office and chauffeur-driven limousines. But it would have had no place for the Holts and the Sneddens and the Peacocks, nor for those whose primary motivation is that of proving themselves to be even more frenziedly anti-racist than most of the ALP.

    Of course a combination of inertia, cowardice, and old-fashioned religious bigotry ensured that the 1980s attempts failed. Yet if they had succeeded we would have been a great deal better off. Now a generation has passed since then, tragically.

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  15. The politics will reflect the society. You can call yourself the Christian Fundamentalist Tradition party but in this day and age as power gets closer you'll pick up an economic and to some degree soft left agenda. The Liberal party is still dominated by an economic agenda but the Holts Sneddon's and Turnbull's, representatives of the casual everything's fine good old days, are gradually getting squeezed out. The last election was an example of what a noted conservative Liberal such as Abbott could do.

    There is no point in endlessly arguing about whether Abbott is "really" conservative or not in my opinion. As society demands more conservative solutions these will be increasingly reflected within the Liberal party. Traditional parties can be useful in drawing the Liberal party to the right. If they prove successful then you can talk about one or the other group taking over.

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  16. Redding wrote "Kilroy - who is surely being disingenuous - there is nothing even remotely unclear about Mr Richardson's prescription for what we need to do" ... "If Kilroy doesn't like that idea" blagh blagh and et cetera...

    I will have to forgive Redding's ignorance. He seems to believe that my question was one in which I attempted to mocked Richardson's sentiment. Of course, anybody who has read my posts here will know that was not, and is not, the case. I will leave it to Redding to search my various posts in which I have suggested one specific and practical move that traditionalists may take to "actively work to change the political culture". My comment here* is a good place to start. Nevertheless, Richardson eludes to it, and this may suffice:

    "Second, we need more involvement of traditionalists in the political institutions of society, [which has been my attitude, and I have debated the merits of it here; see link above] whether these are established parties and media outlets, local organisations, or new media. I know, Kilroy, that you are working within the Liberal Party. I'm not opposed to this strategy, but those engaged in it will need to be clear in their principles in order to hold their ground against the dominant, existing culture within that party."

    I accept this. I will get to how one changes the dominant cultural paradigms below. Richardson continues:

    "What I would emphasise regarding my last comment is that we cannot allow the idea that the Liberal Party, as it stands, is an adequate vehicle for a truly conservative politics in this country. That doesn't mean I disrespect those who are working within it to push it in a better direction."

    Of course, that is precisely what I have been saying all along. Redding obviously is not aware of my earlier comments, which is unfortunate. To clarify my position in relation to all of this: there is no way to change the direction of a political party without changing the way the people who occupy the positions of institutional influence within it think. The fastest way to do this is: join en mass, elect your own State and Federal delegates, have a material impact on the Party Executive. Set up your own branches. Promote your own policy. All else will follow. I respect the decision of some who do not wish to this – after all, that kind of activism is not for everyone. But I reserve the right to point out that they could, and that this could achieve what they desire much faster; actual political activism and the philosophical "culture critical" work done in places like OzConservative are not mutually exclusive.

    There are traditionalists in the Liberal Party. To put it simply: we need your help. We don't have to be a marginal influence – but we are because many of our likeminded colleagues reject the Party for being inadequate. Of course it is inadequate "as it is", but it doesn't have to be the way that it is. There is a faster way to change the party institutions than feeding grass roots cultural development from the blogosdphere (which is about as slow as continental drift).

    Of course, Redding could just complain about it – sure, he can do that too. No worries. Knock yourself out mate. Thanks for your help.

    My earlier post on this thread merely sought to prompt specifics. It was not designed to mock or belittle Richardson or those who contribute to the right-o-sphere.

    * http://ozconservative.blogspot.com/2009/09/closing-of-politics.html?showComment=1254191297871#c2963354708446170486

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