It's very, very easy to dislike all politicians over the asylum seeker issue.
The basic problem, as always, is that on shore processing of boat arrivals, and a relativity easy passage to Australian residence, has the unintended consequence of encouraging more dangerous boats setting off and sinking with large loss of life.
Of course Labor's softening of the process has led to the present situation. But right wing numbskulls forget the bad publicity that Nauru and desert processing centres had generated under the last term of the Howard government: I think it fair to say the public was happy to see what would happen under Rudd without them.
OK, so that didn't pan out. Yes, yes, right wing numbskulls, you said so at the time. Yes, yes, Labor has for a long time been making excuses about push/pull factors that were more about political bottom covering than anything else. But the question is: what will work again now.
Enter Andrew Metcalfe, the immigration head honcho who used to work for Howard and knows a thing or two about the topic. It would seem the Malaysian solution is his idea, and he strongly supports it and says Nauru will not work again (or at least not as well) as it did the first time around. The UNHRC is happy to supervise the result, and hopes it leads to Malaysia treating all asylum seekers better. It is ready to go.
Then the High Court intervenes.
In terms of political stupidity after yesterday's debate, this is how I rate it:
1. The Greens: in complete denial about the unintended consequence of their idealism. Utterly useless and impractical. Have no solution that will start working in anything less than 12 months, possibly longer. Should be made to travel on a Navy ship that has to recover dead bodies.
2. The Coalition: refuses to accept advice of their former public servant Metcalfe; insults Malaysia by saying they don't trust them to live up to a bilateral agreement even when it works strongly in their favour; does not trust UNHRC which is relatively confident about the Malaysian deal; wants to try an old solution despite the fact that it would take a minimum of several months to get Nauru up and able to take anyone at all again; has big Joe Hockey cracking up when the government had already indicated that it would not send unaccompanied minor to Malaysia (and no one from the Government, or media, has been fast enough to point this out to him, or to say "hey, Joe, have a tissue, but if you go with the deal that involved opening both Malaysia and Nauru, we promise to only send them to Nauru.) The Coalition wants its way and is not compromising.
3. Labor: has not played this as well as it should. Here are the key points it should have emphasised:
a. If you want a solution that is instant and can be put into effect from tomorrow, the Malaysian deal is the only option. No one is going to Nauru for at least 3 to 6 months; do you want a rush of boat people to try to get here before then?;
b. Stop pretending that you're now the big caring party for refugees, as if Nauru wasn't sending people nuts and had awful conditions. And stop misleading the public about how the Malaysia deal works. It's a "virtual towback" that will be done with maximum publicity to Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and if it works at all it will work quickly by people smugglers not being able to find 600 or so people willing to be the sacrificial lambs for those that come after them. You may only get a few hundred to Malaysia anyway. Those that go there are living in the community within 45 days, have the right to work and get their kids educated. There is a strong case that this is a more humane outcome than leaving them sitting on a hot rock in the Pacific for a year in crap conditions before letting them come to Australia anyway.
c. Stop ignoring the advice of the same public servant who you used to trust as to why Nauru, even when it is up and running again, won't work as well. As for "towback" - don't be ridiculous, you're just pandering to people who can't remember why we stopped doing that before. And TPV's: there was also good reason why everyone went cool on them. Admit you got things wrong too, and stop playing politics.
I have run out of time. More later.
Here's what I have written elsewhere this morning: