Scott Morrison believes "the time for talking is over" because he has run out of ideas. Immigration is such a contentious issue in the Liberal Party that the only way it can keep a lid on the internal debate is by reverting to the Howard government's policies, and a time when concerns about humanitarianism could be and was shunted to the margins. The fact that the Howard government was voted from office is a technicality that hasn't sunk in yet, or which can be ignored in the hope of reversing it.
The small number of votes to be had from intolerance and deterrence of asylum-seekers is easily quantifiable by mouth-breathers like Mark Textor, whereas the wider credit accrued to people like Malcolm Fraser for resolving actually exising problems in a humane way is just too hard for poll jockeys like Morrison and Abbott. Appeals to humanity and the national interests are wasted on those guys for that reason.
Morrison has no real idea about his portfolio. The only suggestions he offers are like the worst discussions of defence policy, a focus on hardware specs with "redeployment of naval assets ... and potentially expand our aerial surveillance capacity" etc. Lumping asylum-seekers in with piracy and drug-running is stupid (when a small fortune in China White goes to the bottom of the Arafura Sea, it does not need or get rescuing by the armed forces). He stumbles upon the idea of a regional solution but again focuses on military assets rather than the much-needed comprehensive involvement of governments, NGOs (including the United Nations) and private firms which have something to offer.
Nauru is not a solution because no asylum seekers start their journey to Australia from there. People would have to be taken there by Australian authorities. It is more accurate to describe this as a costly charade rather than "the Coalition's proven policies", particularly if you don't give the Coalition credit for "stopping the boats" during the time of relative peace and prosperity around 2005.
My favourite part was this:
The survey area and the frequency of surveillance must also be expanded and include the Indonesian coast, to enable vessels to be tracked more regularly, even from their point of departure. Where necessary, we should seek agreement from Indonesia for such surveillance.But only where necessary, mind you. If we absolutely had to respect Indonesia as a sovereign nation, then Scotty can probably rustle up a bit of respect from somewhere. Seriously, which country is going to give up control over its territorial waters to that extent? You know that he hasn't even had a conversation with anyone in Jakarta about that. The insult to our neighbour is compounded by the blithe way in which he raises this: oh yeah, and we might discuss it with the foreigners if we must. And we're expected to have this guy as a minister in our government?
Now do you see why the Coalition's Asian languages announcement is a joke?
My least favourite part was the passive-aggressive way in which Morrison put his refusal to deal with his fellow Australians in the incumbent government:
- "Sadly, this government has become the problem ..."
- "Regrettably, I have no confidence that this government can fix this problem. Too much has happened ..."
There are three major issues with the Liberal immigration policy that Morrison would need to deal with, and fast, if he faced real scrutiny from the media as well as a minister with his eye on the ball:
- He still hasn't worked out the contradiction between his professed concern for human rights protections in Malaysia, which hasn't signed the UN refugee treaty, and his lack of concern for those same rights in Indonesia, which also hasn't signed the treaty; and
- Morrison hasn't worked out the contradiction between the Liberals' domestic agenda (a professed concern for those with pluck and courage in business and a scorn for those who just sit back and fill out forms and want help from the government), versus his position on asylum seekers (scorn for those with pluck and courage in getting to Australia by any means necessary, and a professed concern for those who just sit back and fill out forms and want help from the government); and
- Just what sort of deterrent is Australia supposed to put up? We're dealing with people who have been driven from their homes, families and communities by really significant disincentives. Short of machine-gunning people in the water there is no real disincentive you could put up to make refugees stop coming here. It's those darn "pull factors", Scott! If you think this country has gone to the dogs, wait until immigrants stop coming.
The government should quarantine a minimum of 5000 places for the offshore special humanitarian program, in addition to the 6000 for mandated refugees through the UNHCR. The balance of the program should be available for onshore applicants. Where the quota of 13,750 permanent visas is exceeded, only temporary visas should be provided until a place under the program is available. If someone is going to wait for a permanent visa, it should not be those who are so vulnerable they cannot afford a bus ticket, let alone a plane to Jakarta and a boat to Australia.That paragraph is full of administrative arrangements that are eminently suitable for negotiation among people of sense and goodwill: 6000 of this and 13,750 of that and various programs and classifications, the very sort of horse-trading that pollies do all the time. The declaration that follows, at the start of Morrison's final paragraph, is just another attempt to make obstinacy look like decisiveness.
The time for talking is over.
The Coalition declared that both the carbon price and the mining tax were dire threats to the economy and the nation. In a hung parliament they failed to stop either. The Coalition declared that Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper should not stay in their positions, and that Kathy Jackson and James Ashby were heroic for speaking out; they failed to remove the former and the latter have (to say the least) let them down. They can't win a trick.
In tonight's news Abbott was photographed chatting amiably with spoilt boy and convicted thug Nick D'Arcy, and was later reported to have done to a fat guy who owns the LNP something similar to what he did to Mark Riley. Peta Credlin is really losing her touch. This is the very time in the electoral cycle when deep, entrenched attitudes that can't be shifted in an election campaign take hold. No wonder Abbott wanted to fast-forward straight to election day.
Morrison was sent out to play the hits and memories of a non-policy that apparently strikes a chord. It has attracted all the votes it is going to attract. Those who are opposed are becoming less sullen and silent, as Malcolm Fraser demonstrates, and is starting to repulse those who are unsure. It also feeds into a wider narrative that Abbott is an insensitive dickhead, and that if Morrison is any example then the whole Coalition government will be like that. Imagine Morrison encountering in one of his talkback radio appearances an Australian who "cannot afford a bus ticket", and consider how far his humanitarian pose would extend.
Morrison thinks he's whacking a piňata of popular support but he's really flaying a beehive, and is unprepared for what seems inevitable. Being incorrigible doesn't negate this silliness, it compounds it. There is a need for a regional agreement, but any joint command arrangements follow, not lead, such an agreement. Morrison and Julie Bishop have shown that they lack the flexibility to develop such an arrangement.
In NSW Bob Carr showed himself a past master at taking credit for what the Coalition hinted at dimly and pulling it off before they could weigh policy options with their limited skills and attention spans. Unless he's lost his touch, Carr has what it takes to carry the dead weight of Bowen with him, and give the Prime Minister another of those get-out-of-gaol-cards that she gets instead of credit.
Having declared that "enough is enough" and "The time for talking is over", it's puzzling that Morrison complains that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration haven't called him. They haven't called me either, Scott. Must be all that governing they are busy doing.
This is not to say that the Gillard government will do a great job with asylum-seeker policy (particularly under the current minister) but the Coalition definitely can't and won't.