Malcolm Turnbull made a debating point on refugees which has been taken up by Malcolm Farr, and apparently others like Virginia Trioli (based on Q&A last night), as being a viable strategy for the government to follow. Malcolm T must be laughing.
The suggestion is that Labor should just adopt John Howard’s policy and if the policy doesn’t work, then revert to something else.
If Gillard did that it might improve her refugee policy, but it would destroy her prime ministership.
No wonder Turnbull was quite happy to restate his challenge last night, although I have no idea why Chris Bowen on the same panel appeared to support it.
Labor, including Gillard individually, spent decades villifying Howard’s refugee policy, and the fact that they have now two-thirds adopted it is one reason for the defections of many of their left to the Greens.
Moving closer to Howard’s position would accelerate this.
It would also confirm the view of many on the right that the government stands for nothing, is hypocritical and incompetent.
It’s that reality that has seen Gillard do everything to avoid accepting the Nauru situation. She is completely wedged on the issue.
Worse, if as is likely the boats still continued to come, Scott Morrison would be able to point to the schemozzle and claim that it’s not just a matter of what the policy is, but whether people smugglers believe the government is really behind it.
It tells you something about the state of the ALP that Turnbull’s proposal is even being accepted as something viable for Labor. It’s only viable for the Liberals, and we’ll never know until after the election whether John Howard’s policies really can stop the boats now, whatever they may have done in the past.