Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rudd's Reffo Bashing Redux

This isn't a post about policy. Not directly, not in the sense of asking the same questions about why this tiny number of desperate people are such favoured scapegoats for poor government, insecurity, and the self-evident failings of our education system. That's just too frustrating, coming as it does at the end of a minor-thesis-writing process that involved, in part, exploring the irrationality of so many Australians, the left as well as the right, towards the region, people in boats, the usual themes that have been used to de-secure life on an apparently vast and remote continent for well over 100 years. Prodeo's onto it, anyway.

No, this is a post about the meaning of 'never again', a mantra so many in the ALP, such as myself, hoped would prove true following the humiliating nonsense of Tampa. Some left back then, joining the Greens or retiring from political involvement altogether, while others such as myself sucked up the bad realpolitik and thought 'well, this has been a particularly nasty period in Australian history, but perhaps once the poor-bugger-me set have had their little vent, and the aftermath of 11/9 has settled, we can reach saner ground on this issue.' Quietly we waited, watching things improve a little, trusting in people's decency and empathy to slowly eat away at the policies. And for a while it appeared things had changed. Not remarkably, but perhaps enough to remove reffo-baiting (nonsensically known as 'border security', as if there were any threat whatsoever to the integrity of the border, as such) from the prime issue tray.

We were wrong. Abbott, the great prodigy of St Ignatius Riverview, my alma mater, with its Ignatian slogan Men For Others...

...The term has come to mean that if one person graduates from a Jesuit school lacking a sense of social justice, the school has not achieved its primary mission...

...has ramped up the hatred for the Samaritans, and in response Kevin Rudd- not desperately trying to get elected like Beasley, in fact from a position of notable political strength, has screamed 'ME TOO!'

Pathetic. And palpably dishonest. Any idiot who follows international affairs knows neither Afghanistan nor Sri Lanka has demonstrated any improvement in respect of the treatment of its vilified minorities. In Sri Lanka's case it's a bit like claiming that the Tutsis were safe once the Hutus had successfully taken power (or indeed, as the worm turned back, the other way around). But in any event that is a moot point, because if people cannot show the requisite risk of persecution then the process, stacked against them to begin with, should weed that out. The fact that Rudd has suspended the process demonstrates complete lack of confidence in the very argument he is asserting.

So where does this leave the 'never again' contingent? Did I in fact vow to leave the party if it ever stooped that low again? Perhaps assuming it couldn't possibly do so twice, that last time was the result of a particularly bad confluence of events and the sheer surprise factor of Tampa...?

Bizarrely, I'm to the right of many in Labor, at least theoretically. But I found myself arguing with a comrade at the last branch meeting I went to, she was from the left, and she was running the old 'better off than the other side' line I've run so often, and I found myself really struggling with it. Labor has been better, pound-for-pound, than the Howard Liberals, but is that the test we should be applying? There is another test, the opportunity-cost test, one I've often held the Greens up to. It goes a little like:

If there wasn't an ALP, in its present form, dominated by unions and factions, controlling the space it does, obtaining consent from the likes of us, what else could there be?

Or- is the only choice we have a choice between two social conservatives, with a hard left party sniping away from one side and some illiterate nutballs hurling bibles from the other?

If everyone who doesn't like the status quo just rolls with it, and accepts the apologia articulated by my comrade, will it ever improve?

Do I roll out my credit card again before May, keep up the membership, hope for something better if we win again? Wasn't that the hope the first time around?

Would I do more good dumping this policy shebang and going back to law, finding a way to a spot where I'm fighting tooth and nail to at least achieve some small wins for people who are getting screwed over?

Will we ever, ever, get over the fact that we're Girt by Sea?


Penthe said...

Tough choice. But that whole 'better than the other side' thing does sound increasingly hollow and desperate. On the other hand you could go and read Orwell's commentary about the left dismissing any alternative models of government as being just as bad as each other as an excuse to keep whining and not act, and that'd probably make you want to stay and keep on struggling.

Guy said...

I don't think its ideal, but its clear that Rudd is running a little scared from an election campaign that is punctuated by the arrival of boats every other day.

Sadly, I don't think the current situation vis-a-vis boat arrivals is politically sustainable in this rather white-bread country of ours.

Armagnac Daddy said...

Perhaps not. But if ending apartheid wasn't politically sustainable for a long time, and if you were in the ruling party hoping to effect change, and instead things went backwards, would you stay on indefinitely trying to swing it back around (and providing your labour and money to the cause) or eventually pull out and focus on other forms of agitation?

I don't know, just musing. No wholesale rejection of the party, just disappointment and questions.

Guy said...

"just disappointment and questions."

Business as usual then! :)

Armagnac Daddy said...

Ay, I guess, refugee policy is at the upper end of my priority list though.

What's made this particularly get up my nose is the transparent weakness of the assertion, as fact, and the way large groups are being dealt with collectively based on country of origin. In a way that just leaves them hanging. In a camp. Until close to, or past, the election. It seems really seedy.

Guy said...

Agreed - the country-specific nature of the changes are discriminatory and amount to nothing more than base politics.