I’m sure by now we have all read the article by former ALP Member, former ALP Candidate for the federal seat of McEwan, Andrew McLeod, which appeared in the Fairfax media on Monday, titled, ‘Why I Left the ALP’. If not, here it is for you to read so that you can be informed and get the context around what I am about to say in reply to that piece.
I’d like to say I support the sentiments of Andrew McLeod, former ALP candidate for McEwan in 2001, and author of the piece in The National Times on May 27, 2013, titled ‘Why I Quit the ALP’.
But I cannot.
I think his logic is flawed.
I, too came to a turning point in my life as a result of ‘Tampa’ in 2001. The actions of Howard revulsed me so much that I went quickly and decisively from being just a supporter of Labor at the ballot box, to a member of the party. I wanted to no longer be someone who shouted at the Howard government from the sidelines, but instead an active participant in their overthrow. Also because the Pacific Solution disgusted me. Locking genuine refugees up until they went mad, in hell hole camps in Australia, for all to see, or in equally depressing gulags on desolate Pacific atolls, was just a bridge too far.
Luckily, the election of a Labor federal government in 2007 put an end to this, and a more humane regime was instituted.
However, this is where the issue becomes complicated and more than the essentially unsophisticated analysis of Andrew McLeod has allowed for.
The Federal Labor government tried to lead the discussion Andrew pines for. However, they have been thwarted at every turn by an opportunistic Coalition Opposition seeking to rekindle the flames of xenophobia and bigotry so expertly exploited by John Howard from 2001 on, and, frankly, an opportunistic group of People Traffickers, who have seen the federal Labor government’s attempted generosity towards Asylum Seekers as a weakness to exploit. And exploit it mercilessly to Labor’s cost they have. To the point where, combined with the Abbott Opposition’s advantage-taking tactics, the federal Labor government have been placed into a Lose-Lose situation. Unable to please the likes of Andrew and unable to please those in the electorate who can see Australia being taken advantage of by the People Traffickers and their boat-borne Asylum Seeker cargo. To the sickening point where the life of the Asylum Seeker is no longer sacred & they can die at sea for all the People Traffickers care, as long as they have banked their $.
However, the solution is not, as Andrew appears to suggest, throwing your hands up into the air and throwing open the borders again by rescinding the excision of the mainland. That way lies a bonanza for the People Traffickers which they would gladly and eagerly exploit to the max. And Australia, for all the good intentions of Andrew and his kind, simply cannot take every Asylum Seeker/Refugee who wishes to come to Australia. Our fragile environment simply could not stand it and our social fabric would be rent by it. Surely, Andrew, the people who live here already, the citizens of Australia, the electorate, get a say in all this? Form a new party, by all means, but at the end of the process democracy means respecting the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box and via the votes in parliament of their representatives, and, at the moment, that collective will is saying that they don’t want all power to reside with the Asylum Seekers and the organisers of their boat journeys. No matter how genuine is their cause. The Australian people want to retain control over their Immigration system.
That is why I have stayed a Member of the ALP. It is the only party that has tried to find a humane solution to this complex problem that will no longer stand for simplistic solutions such as the sort Andrew appears to be advocating.
That is why I support the Bali Process and the Regional Processing Centre on Manus Island, which the Prime Minister and the Papua New Guinea prime Minister signed an Agreement for the week before last, because it will finally bring the ‘Justice is Blind’ principle to our region’s refugee intake.
No longer will those who come by boat get preferential treatment to settle in Australia compared to those who languish in camps, unable to afford the People Traffickers fee. Nor will they be able to guarantee that if they make it to Australia, that they get to stay in Australia. Now they can end up in any one of a number of regional countries.
That’s why I am still a member of the ALP. Because they are the only ones who have shown the courage and leadership required to tackle this complex issue head on from all angles & have come up with the most humane and rational solution respectful of all players in this issue. Asylum Seekers, the Australian People, and the Environment of our beautiful country, which I, for one, do not believe can cope with an overburdening of Australia. Despite others well-intentioned words.