Jeff Sparrow writes on the ABC that Australian politics is filled with the gutless, pathetic and predictable:
Take refugees. Yes, if Labor had taken a principled stand against xenophobia in the past, there would, quite probably, have been a short-term political penalty. Nonetheless, a campaign that had sought to humanise rather than demonise asylum seekers could, eventually, have reframed the debate, positioning the conservatives as mean-spirited and vicious, a party of old white men out of touch with contemporary multicultural Australia.
But the ALP ducked that difficult argument and joined the anti-immigrant caravan. The result? Here we are in 2010, with the refugee issue still presented in the terms set by John Howard — except that it’s now a Labor PM denouncing political correctness and pledging not to allow the foreign hordes to put a foot on Australian soil.
How, exactly, was that ever supposed to work? Was it meant to undercut the Liberals? If so, how? As Tony Abbott has shown, it’s always possible to go harder on refugees. In a race to the Right, the conservatives will always win. Why wouldn’t they? It’s their territory, after all.