How can you not be cynical? As the Labor government this week introduces into the House of Representatives the bills legislating the Carbon Tax she swore before the election she’d never countenance, La Gillardine’s courtiers have clearly advised her that her
subjects constituents have the collective memory of a goldfish.
Well then, here’s a reminder of the grand-daddy of all broken promises in the history of Australian federal government. The only situation that comes close is John Howard’s promise before the 1996 election to “never, ever” legislate a consumption tax (or Goods and Services Tax as it became known here). Having regained government in that poll, he had a change of heart, and determined to introduce one. But at least he was open about it, and gave the people the opportunity to reject it (and him) in the 1998 poll, before it was introduced in parliament. Gillard makes no such concessions to democracy.
For those unaware of this last one, when Labor in 2007 under Kevin Rudd won government, former PM John Howard left him with just six refugees in mandatory detention. Responding to the explosion of numbers in 2001 following the war in Afghanistan, Howard’s policy of processing refugees offshore on the island of Nauru (an independent but tiny Pacific nation which shares roughly the same relationship to Australia as Guam does to the USA), also known as the “Pacific Solution”, was singularly effective in shutting down the illegal trade of “people smuggling” of those (primarily from Afghanistan and elsewhere in South Asia) who may or may not have been genuine refugees. As almost all of them destroyed their papers before landing in Australia, determining their status was a costly and drawn-out process (Australia being signatory to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, as I detailed back here). Though Howard’s policy was completely effective in shutting this trade down, as this graph demostrates, it was decried by Rudd and Gillard in Opposition as cruel and inhumane, and they committed to reversing this policy.
The results were as tragic as they were predictable. Since Labor took office in 2007, over 11,000 people have attempted the voyage by boat, with an estimated 4%, or 440 men, women and children being lost at sea, including an estimated 50 who drowned in a single horrific incident off Christmas Island in December last year. Gillard’s response has been as flailing and pathetic as it has been ineffective. The government has received Departmental briefings to the effect that unless the situation is remedied, within 12 months our immigration detention facilities will be overwhelmed, and Labor will have no option but to release unprocessed arrivals into the general population, with all the social, health, economic and security dangers that that entails.
How smart does that look?