30 October 2009

Chameleon loses its camouflage

Kevin Rudd's major immigration bungle—the so-called "Indonesian Solution", which really should be called the Indonesian Fiasco—exposes his phoniness. Such is his mastery of delivering spin over the 24-hour media cycle and contempt for the average voter that he masquerades as an economic conservative, environmentalist, humanitarian and Christian socialist, depending on which voters he wants to con in the message that he is conveying. He makes extraordinary and incoherent ideological shifts not just between press releases, but between sentences within the same speech.

Rudd has spun a web of deception extending from the political left to the political right, and it has inevitably left him entangled. Julie Bishop, Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, asked Rudd about a newspaper report that he is offering millions of dollars to Indonesia to intercept the growing wave of asylum seekers in Indonesia:

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin) (2:21 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to the report in today's West Australian newspaper that 'Indonesia will be offered millions of dollars to intercept and house asylum seekers who attempt to make the journey to Australia', which could be paid 'as a bounty for every boat intercepted'. Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether such arrangements are under consideration and the estimated cost to Australian taxpayers?

Mr RUDD (Griffith) (Prime Minister) —I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for her question, which goes to the fabric of our cooperation with Indonesia in dealing with the global challenge of people smuggling. I note that that question follows the previous question from the leader of the National Party, which pointed to the push factors which are at work, one of which is from Afghanistan and another of which is from Sri Lanka, given the recent civil war. This government has been absolutely consistent in saying that in dealing with this problem, which is a global problem, we must maximise our global cooperation with the UNHCR and resettlement countries. That is the first part of it.

The second part of it, of course, is to employ the cooperative arrangements with Indonesia and other regional countries through the Bali process and also under the provisions which are provided for under the Lombok treaty—which I seem to recall was negotiated by those opposite, though it was ratified and concluded after this government took office. That treaty, in one of its provisions, deals with cooperation between Australia and Indonesia on people-smuggling. The President of Indonesia and I have made no secret of the fact that we intend to continue to develop a framework for further cooperation on people-smuggling. That is what we intend to do. That will mean providing additional assistance to our friends in Indonesia to help with the resettlement task and to help with all the associated functions which they might undertake in the future to assist Australia and other countries in dealing with this regional problem. There is nothing remarkable in that; it is the right thing for Australia to do. This government makes no apology whatsoever for the fact that we have a tough line on asylum seekers when it comes to dealing with the challenges of people smugglers around the world—tough but humane.

Rudd's attempt to politically escape from this policy debacle by outsourcing border protection to Indonesia is anything but tough and humane. Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull summed up Rudd's epic policy failure in his address to Federal Parliament:

Well, it’s time for this Prime Minister to face up to the facts; he cannot escape responsibility for the people aboard that Australian Customs vessel. He cannot refuse to answer for how his policies have led to this outcome. He says his policies are tough and humane. Tough but humane – it’s just another of the phoney formulas dreamed up by the Winston Smith wannabes in his office to create an impression with the Government’s border protection policies are something they are not.

In fact, this Government’s policies are neither tough nor humane. They are dysfunctional. They do not work. They fail to achieve the object of the policy, which is to stop the people smuggling. They have failed and they will continue to fail. And Australians know that, because they see with their own eyes how these policies are unravelling as each and every day passes.

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