You might recall that Julia Gillard kicked off her week in Western Sydney with an announcement of a new taskforce to combat gang crime at a cost of $64 million. If you read through her press conference, she emphasises open gang violence, such as drive-by shootings in major centres around Australia rather than Western Sydney, and the fact that gangs move around, but it’s fair enough to say, I think, that the time and place of her announcement has some significance.
The LNP claimed that the Labor policy was a steal of their ‘Safer Streets policy’ so they attacked Labor on the grounds of competence. Here’s an excerpt from their site:
“Just as they can’t control our borders – resulting in record illegal boat arrivals and guns being smuggled into the hands of organised criminals – Labor just can’t get it right when it comes to protecting our communities from the scourge of crime,” Mr Morrison said.
But it’s more than an attack on competence. Morrison is linking crime with asylum seekers. Remember he did this earlier when a single Sri Lankan asylum seeker was charged Sri Lankan asylum seeker with the alleged indecent assault of a young woman in a Sydney university dorm. He:
”demanded” an immediate suspension of the community release program and a review to determine new ”behavioural protocols … with clear negative sanctions for breaches”.
Now the LNP has linked street crime and boat people directly in an ad on Facebook:
Tony Wright in the SMH gives a more nuanced account, pointing out that Gillard in announcing the anti-gang taskforce in Punchbowl (a western Sydney suburb) mentioned that only the previous evening, someone had shot into a family home only streets away in the nearby suburb of Padstow. I missed that in the transcript, where she does refer to a current shooting in Melbourne. Wright also reminds us of Gillard’s phoney trip with western Sydney MP David Bradbury in December 2010 peering out over the Timor Sea from HMAS Broome hoping to spot asylum seekers, or something. Wright also gives details from the NSW Bureau of Crime and Statistics showing that crime statistics for the area have been pretty stable over the last five years.
Bernard Keane in Crikey also finds that violent crime in the area is either stable or down. In his summary of Gillard’s week in Western Sydney, he groans about the prospect of a rerun of the standards of the 2010 election.
On Scott Morrison Nick Bryant reminds us (great photo) that Morrison complained about the cost of asylum seekers being flown to Sydney for funerals after boat sank at Christmas Island in 2010, and that in February 2011 he suggested to shadow cabinet that they exploit anti-Muslim feeling. This was reported by Lenore Taylor at the time. Mercifully the idea was squashed by Philip Ruddock and Julie Bishop.
This is strange territory, where I hesitate to go, but Bryant’s piece tells us that Morrison is a devout Pentecostal who worships at an American-style mega-church called Shirelive in his constituency. Shirelive with its water baptisms and designer-shirt pastors has close ties with the better-known Hillsong community. The founder of Hillsong, Harley Davidson–riding pastor Brian Houston, is one of Morrison’s mentors. Morrison claims that the bible is not a policy handbook, but
Supporters, however, claim he has pursued a faith-based policy. “He’s a very ethical and moral man,” says a fellow Liberal. “Stopping the boats is ethical and moral.”
The policy of turning the boats back is “tough love”, for the good of the asylum seekers. It must be said that similar arguments are being used by the Gillard government to support their policies. There is a rigid moral stance and a rigidity of thinking, combined with political pragmatism that sends a shiver up the spine.
George Megalogenis in conversation with Richard Fidler (Part 1 and Part 2) said we were being led by political pygmies, but even so in the last few decades bipartisanship was necessary for anything of significance to be done. It was just too easy for the other side to run a destructive negative campaign. Paul Keating wrote the script on that, he says, when he demolished Hewson’s GST in 1993.
Megalogenis cites two areas where such consensus exists – the Hawke-Keating economic reforms and multiculturalism.
It seems that if you want consensus you need to move to the right these days. Up until the Tampa incident in 2001, there was bipartisanship in asylum seeker policy. Beasley gave as one of his reasons for effectively caving in the the appalling ‘Pacific solution’ the need to maintain bipartisanship, especially as our armed forces were engaged.
For a time the policies diverged. Megalogenis reminds us that it was Turnbull as leader who said the LNP would stop the boats, but he didn’t say how. It took someone like Abbott to return fully to the Howard policy and someone like Morrison to promulgate it with enthusiasm. Labor has gone as far to the right as they dare. It will be interesting to see what policy they take to the election. Even if they had identical policies the LNP would claim that only they are hairy-chested enough to carry their appalling policy through.
The LNP ad shows just how ruthless they are prepared to be.
Megalogenis says that if the 2013 election is effectively a repeat of the 2010 one, he’s going on a bicycle tour around Australia. It looks as though the Oz will lose one of their better journalists!