Thursday, 1 September 2011

Tony Abbott's delight at Julia Gillard's plight

MP Chris Bowen
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, in Canberra yesterday,
describes the High Court decision as 'a profoundly disappointing one'.
Picture: Kym Smith Source: News Limited

TONY Abbott says the High Court ruling is a devastating blow for an "incompetent government that simply can't get anything right".

The Opposition Leader said the rejection of the Malaysia Solution showed the Gillard government had failed to think the policy through."This is a government that lurches from one self-made crisis to the next, whether it is pink batts, the National Broadband Network, live cattle or border protection, it is just one bungle after another," Mr Abbott said. "This is a government mired in incompetence."

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the decision was "profoundly disappointing" and a significant blow to the government's efforts to "break the people-smugglers' business model". He said the government had commissioned urgent legal advice on the implications of the decision for offshore processing and cabinet would consider its response "carefully and methodically".

He said the legal advice on which the government had proceeded had been "very solid", but the High Court had imposed a "new test" on the Migration Act that had broad ramifications for offshore processing. He said the Malaysian deal had shown potential in terms of cutting the number of boat arrivals. Since the announcement of the deal, the number of arrivals had halved compared with the same period last year.

Former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson said the government had taken a thumping in the High Court and had no alternative but to swallow its pride and opt for a Nauru solution for asylum-seekers. Mr Richardson said the decision made the government look like a joke "because frankly, at the moment it is".

The Hawke government minister said everyone would have told the government there would be a legal challenge and whoever provided the legal advice that it was safe should be sacked. "This is a thumping in the High Court," Mr Richardson told Sky News. "They didn't just go down, they got slaughtered."

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young welcomed the decision and said off-shore processing should be abandoned as a policy. The Greens also said they would not support any legislation to undermine the court's ruling.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie was "delighted" with the decision. The balance-of-power independent, who had previously said the government had lost its way on the issue of asylum-seekers, said "trading asylum-seekers with Malaysia was always at odds with our ethical and legal obligations".

Independent senator Nick Xenophon said the government should now process all asylum-seekers onshore. "Hundreds of millions of dollars is being wasted on offshore processing every year," he said.

"That money should be going to schools and hospitals here in Australia, rather than chasing a political solution that in reality is no solution at all."

Additional reporting: Sid Maher, Verity Edwards


The High Court decision was a a simply one really. The Court was proactive and decisive, much to my surprise.

Effectively what it said was that if Australia is a signatoryry to the United Nation's Convention on Refugee, then Australia must abide by the spirt and the text of the document without equivocation.

If Australia wants to wash its hands of all refugees responsibilities then simply withdraw from the United Nations Convention. I do not believe this would be  politically palatable, domestically.  

I remind myself that rrefugees are living souls though much worst off than you and I and domestic politics should play no part in determinig their status and well being.

Parliament as the supreme authority could amend Section 198 of the Migration Act and circumvent the High Court but this would be un Australian and against the Westminster model of Government.

Abbott whether we like it or not holds all the cards and has Gillard against the ropes. Incidentally Naru is no option either as all it would take would be another High Court challenge and a similar decision would be reached.

The current situation gives Abbott two choices. He either can sit back and see the Government disappear into the political quick sand or show a sense of nobility and grace and offer Gillard a way out.

The way out is to have a bi-partisan solution and process the asylum applications within Australian territories. Those that are genuine refugees would be offered employment opportunities put on community projects and  the children sent to school.

It should be noted that Whitlam, Fraser and Hawke did not play political games with the lives of those less fortunate . The first Prime Minister to baulk; and to this day I do not know why, was the worldly Paul Keating when he introduced mandatory detention. Pauline Hansen came along and spooked Howard and then his actions were compounded by the September 11th anti Muslim sentiment. The rest is now history.


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