In retrospect: What he said and what she might have thought.
It was at Parliament House where Prime Minister Robert Menzies, a devout royalist, was to quote the 17th century words of Thomas Ford: “I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die.”
Sir William Heseltine Private Secretary to HM the Queen 1986-1990: “It was one of the very few occasions I think Sir Robert misjudged his audience. And I can remember that there was a frisson of embarrassment and this was perhaps reflected on the Queen’s own look on that occasion.”
This is Captain Chris Bowen, Immigration Minister speaking. We have made serious navigational errors and it seems to be internal polling that has wrecked our moral compass. The party engine room is philosophically defunct – it could not cope with the force of our sudden shift to the right.
Here we are, drifting aimlessly, lurching from side to side as the backlashes from our political opportunism rock us to our core.
Here we are, just a hull of our former glory.
Here we are, trying to heed polling, trying to be seen as trying to be tough in trying to stop refugees from trying to reach our shores. It’s a trying exercise.
Polling indicates that Australians don’t want us to be soft. They are afraid that the whole country will be overrun by hordes of asylum seekers who could threaten their way of life. Even worse – there could be terrorists amongst them. It’s all about fear (and racism, but we cannot ever admit that!)
Trouble is, the Coalition stirred up all this fear, and it’s us who have to deal with it. We have to look as if we’re more right wing than they are.
As you would expect, Amnesty International and refugee advocacy groups – even Malcolm Fraser – call us inhumane.
We know that most of these asylum seekers are desperate men, women and children fleeing persecution, torture, murder and war. But if we soften, we’re sunk.
We can’t go back on our policy of off-shore processing – that would make us the laughing stock of the nation.
Trouble is, we already are the laughing stock of the nation.
Talk about being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea!
It seems that nothing will deter asylum seekers from trying to get to Australia.
Would-be refugees won’t buy our propaganda that we don’t want them to drown by taking risky voyages in leaky boats at the hands of people smugglers. They know we don’t care about them. They see the way we treat them if they don’t drown. Many detainees wish they had drowned rather than be treated like animals.
And they know that this rhetoric is mainly intended for the ears of the Australian electorate. Unfortunately for us, they are not stupid and they are desperate.
We thought that the Houston Report would be the silver bullet. But that hasn’t worked, even with the ‘no advantage rule’. Fortunately, Mr Houston dismissed on-shore processing because that encourages people to get into boats. Bravo!
Now that we have moved to the ‘Pacific Solution Mark Two’, re-opened Nauru and opened Manus Island, we still can’t cope with the growing numbers. Sure, we are impressing the electorate by sending ‘economic refugees’ back, but they are the tip of the iceberg.
Now that the facilities are overflowing and we can’t cope, we have been forced to introduce on-shore processing using bridging visas, which are embarrassingly like Howard’s Temporary Protection Visas. What a back-down!
Now that we are being accused of creating a poverty stricken underclass in our own society, we are really looking vulnerable. We are locked into Houston’s ‘no advantage rule’ and there is no way out.
Now that emotive poll-changing terms are creeping into the media – terms like women and children, self-harm, hunger strikes, psychological disorders, inhumane conditions, suicide – we could be expected to soften. But we can’t. That would make us look poll-driven – even hypocritical.
This is a humanitarian disaster, which is a public relations disaster for us. Poor us!
Uhh ohh! We are lurching to the left. It’s our dissident Left convenor Doug Cameron who is asking what steps have been taken to implement a regional framework and “how we can fashion processing to ensure those without genuine claims are quickly sent home and those with genuine claims are treated with humanity.” He reckons, “Our policies are being determined on the basis of narrow domestic considerations, when this is a huge geopolitical issue” and “With the number of people that are looking to move around the world seeking refuge, you’re always going to have a situation that boats will come to Australia. I don’t think you can stop the boats. I think that’s rhetorical nonsense.”