Thursday May 8th 2003
My brother is finally back from holidays so I finally can get back into this blogging again - I missed it so much. I have been going around for a month imagining all the things I would write about.
I went to see a movie at the cinema for the first time in years early in April. I remember distinctly last time it was "Moulin Rouge". I can only assume it was pre 9/11 and I remember that Tiffany Hamilton just happened to go to the same screening. Why would a moviephobe like me go to the mooovies? Well, Belinda's class at school won an easter egg decorating competition and got free passes for four to the new Nickolodeon movie - the Thornberrys. So being the masochist I decided to go with my three oldest children. I expected that Felicia, the youngest of the three, would cause the most trouble, but although she decided to sit on my lap the whole time, she was no trouble. Belinda, now ten years old decided she would sit next to me and the gap to our left reserved for Felicia if she wanted to hop off me quickly got taken by someone else. Half an hour before the mooovie finishes, Belinda tells me she is busting and so I have to take her to the toilet leaving the younger ones to take care of themselves. After the mooovie finishes, she is busting again. Worlds smallest bladder there. What about the movie?
One of the nights during April, I was left home alone with the 4 kids. Deciding I should cook something, I mentioned pasta. Belinda immediately starts whingeing and whining "We always have pasta, we had pasta last week!". So I look into the pantry and mention what about rice? Nikolas suddenly overhears and starts to whinge himself "Rice?! I don't want rice. Why do we have to have rice?".
It was basically a Whinge - Whinge situation.
I know that basically the political and media line on this is either biased towards the statement "John Howard stole the election through lies and exaggeration regarding Asylum seekers arriving in boats" - or on the other side of the spectrum "John Howard finally stood up for Australians and said enough is enough and implemented policies to completely deter anymore illegals arriving by boat"
I have quite a different view on the whole drama from a tactical perspective from both sides of parliament starting back a few elections before the one in question. It also doesn't rule out some kind of "gentleman's agreement" between major political parties as to which "policy mix" they were going to sell to the electorate. In John Hewson's Fighback election loss debacle, one striking feature of the election was how polarised the voting was due the huge looming GST issue, which meant that minor parties and independents did rather poorly. In the following election, John Howard had not advertised any significant policy changes and got in on a tide of "It's Time" and independants and minor parties did rather well - including significantly Pauline Hansen.
The next election, the GST came up again as an issue. Many observers, such as myself, were wondering why they "needed" to include the GST in the package of policies. A large number of small details has convinced me that the idea was to completely polarise the electorate so that One Nation would be completely squeezed out of the running. Economic benefits of the GST are way too long term for the electorate to ever be sold on it being a good idea just for that, and the opposition had a number of unpopular policies in the mix as well. Certainly not your conventional "promise the world" kind of electioneering that is the norm in democracies. The first priority of the major parties was to marginalise One Nation. Winning government at that moment came as a distant second priority compared with snuffing out the evil flames of an inexperienced, populist new party.
In the most recent election - suddenly it seemed that Pauline Hansen's original prediction of being "invaded" by "Asians" seemed to be coming to a head. Had the major parties stuck to their original policies on boat people, One Nation would have been rewarded hansomely with a huge increase in popularity. This would have been a much worse signal to the rest of the world than what actually happened. So, in each of the major parties looking after their long term interests in keeping One Nation at bay, required the sort of extreme measures to lurch towards Xenophobia at least until after the election. Presumably, after the next election, I would suspect Labor would get back in power, and perhaps increase our legal refugee intake, or resoften up our policy again somewhat. Hopefully, One Nation might have been completely discredited by then, and the major parties will have political room to maneuvre back to the middle ground.
To summarise (it may have sounded long winded), Tampa policy was guided by considerations on which party should be marginalised the most, as much as on getting the most votes oneself. This explains the lurch to the right of both main parties/coalitions, to ensure a populist right wing party was snuffed out if possible, through a period of general xenophobia in the public. Not as the way it is made out, that the general xenophobia was abused competitively in a thrust for power. I am not particularly pleased that there are no boat people now - I think the diplomatic cost was very high. But I am pleased that One Nation didn't get the benefit of the Xenophobia - The political and diplomatic cost of them getting the balance of power would have been disastrous for the country. I think the major parties colluded (either by accident or by full-blown conspiracy) to achieve the result that they did.