According to Bill Shorten, both major parties are as one on turning back boats and offshore detention. But just listen to Tanya Plibersek and Sophie Ismail, the Latte Belt contender seeking to oust The Greens’ Adam Bandt. They aren’t anywhere near so definite
It’s strange. I live in the inner city. I even own a bike. And yet I have never a felt a compulsion to wear brogues without socks, eat a deconstructed hamburger off what looks like my mum’s chopping block or sport a beard that would beat W. G. Grace’s by an innings and half.
Others, alas, are not so fortunate. They succumb to the Stockholm Syndrome of the soul. One of these is Sophie Ismail, the Labor candidate for Adam Bandt’s seat of Melbourne. “I look like a Greens candidate,” she said last year when she was preselected – and, as a gay former migrant and human rights lawyer, she certainly ticked the right boxes. “All of my friends vote Green,” she rather plaintively added.
Given all this it should have come as no surprise that on the very first full day of the election campaign Ms Ismail completely disavowed her party’s asylum seeker strategy. “I have concerns about turn-backs,” she bleated. “I don’t think they should be on the table,” adding, for good measure, “it’s time to review the Pacific solution.”
Bill Shorten was quick to repudiate her remarks, but they only prompted delight among the Furry Friends. Leader Richard Di Natale declared the Greens would be happy to support a Labor government in a hung parliament. “If the Labor Party is interested in taking this country into a more progressive, more sustainable direction, then obviously we would be happy to have those negotiations,” he said, even as he campaigned to tip Anthony Albanese out of his seat of Grayndler on Monday.
Bandt himself was even keener when he appeared on the chattering classes’ favourite Punch and Judy show, Q&A, that evening. “I would like to see Greens working with Labor,” he said. Labor has acted swiftly to disavow the suggestion. “He’s dreaming,” Bill Shorten said of Bandt, doing his best everyman impersonation.
His deputy, Tanya Plibersek, was even more emphatic when she appeared on ABC radio on Tuesday morning. “Australians would be horrified by the idea of another hung parliament,” she said. “We legislated well when we had a hung parliament but it was extraordinarily difficult. Some of the compromises that we made cost us quite dearly.”
Yet oddly enough, last July, less than 10 months ago at the Labor National Conference, Plibersek voted, via proxy, in support of an asylum seeker policy not too dissimilar to that backed by her party’s candidate in Melbourne – or for an end to turn-backs, anyway.
With the Greens threatening to force a fresh election if they hold the balance of power in a hung parliament and Labor won’t play ball, it’s hard to imagine the likes of Plibersek being unwilling to make one or two concessions in order to govern – particularly given the circumstances would give them a whole new degree of leverage over their supposed colleagues from the right.
That is, of course, unless you’re dreaming.