I have always understood you to be a democrat at heart, someone who believes that society’s key decisions ought to be made by the elected branches of government. On this view it is the voters who ultimately choose the people who will decide; these core decisions about such things as who can come to this country are not – or should not be – made by committees of ex-lawyers sitting on top courts.
That core principle matters to me and to lots of others. It matters a lot. And on the basis of that principle you and the Coalition ought to pass Ms Gillard’s amendments to the Migration Act.
Yes, make sure that any such amendments leave open the Nauru option. And yes, make plain to the voters that you in no way endorse the Malaysia deal, you are simply acting to ensure this is a decision for the elected branches of government.
You might even point out that co-operating with Ms. Gillard will ensure that Australia can control its own borders in the long run, unlike the EU today (trapped as it is in the hurdles invented by its top judges).
Finally, this is the perfect example to show that you do not oppose things just for the sake of opposing. You oppose, and rightfully so, when legislation is unprincipled, self-serving and likely to have bad long-term effects. And that is how I would characterise the NBN, the carbon dioxide tax, the cash for clunkers, the offensive and free speech stifling media enquiry, the fiasco around cattle exports, the super mining tax, the Building the Education fiasco, and so on and so on picking almost at random from the supposed achievements of this most incompetent of all governments.
But this time the Prime Minister is correct. So help pass this legislation and do so now. By doing so you are not endorsing the Malaysia deal. You are showing that you respect democracy, which is more than Ms. Gillard with her blatant lie to the voters can say.
James Allan is Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland
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