Flitting here and flitting there, that damned elusive Kevin Rudd. Not one can pin him down. Captain Chaos is his alter ego. Defeating Abbott is his credo.
Life becomes a knife-edged experience under Campaigning Kevin. Just what will he do next in the great cause of keeping himself in power? Unless someone has any idea at all how to get rid of him permanently from the political stage (the Labor party ran out of ideas) it is best to mollify him with opinion polls totally in his favour. That way he will be less prone to erratic action. Think of being locked in a room with a deranged person. Don’t do anything to provoke him. If contacted by a pollster, cross your fingers and say you’ll vote for Kevin.
A first thing to understand is that everything, absolutely everything, he does turns to dross. He wasn’t decapitated in 2010 because he was a roaring success. But hasn’t he changed? Isn’t he now Consultative Kev? No, he ain’t.
Accusing Abbott of potentially precipitating war with Indonesia was not the mark of a man who brings considered positions out of cabinet. The (RSPT) mining tax fiasco was not a salutary experience. Hence we have far-reaching changes to the FBT rules without a hint of consultation. But these were tasters.
The pièce de résistance was festering in his shrunken amygdala. Monumental in its absurdity, the "PNG solution" dwarfs the trifling efforts at idiocy encapsulated by Gillard’s East Timor and Malaysian solutions.
One thing you have to understand about your opponents in any field of conflict is that they are probably not idiots. The boat people and those ‘dastardly devils’ who smuggle them will know that the only way in which the PNG solution will work is if very few asylum seekers are actually shipped to PNG.
There are no facilities. None will be built in time. None will be built in sufficient size. The cost of housing and maintaining (for decades) large numbers of asylum seekers living in PNG would be astronomical. And if most asylum seekers are not refugees at all, as Bob Carr attests, just how are they to be shipped back to their countries of origin — or to some other imaginary countries that will take in these non-refugees? It is beyond bizarre.
Finally, why would we ever think that Papua New Guineans and their political representatives would for very long acquiesce to PNG being a permanent dumping ground for our unwanted would-be migrants/refugees? Presumably these people would all have to be paid a princely weekly benefit in PNG terms from Australian taxpayers. They would not have Wantoks to rely on. They would be much better off than the local population; which would be evident enough as they trooped to their local mosques. That is all bound to go down well. Political and social furore waits in the wings in PNG; stoked no doubt at every opportunity, by PNG PM Peter O’Neill’s political opponents. There is no shortage of them.
Prime ministers under PNG’s system of government can be changed almost as summarily as can Labor prime ministers here. So what PNG has been bribed into accepting today – though the bribe must have been enticing in its magnitude (another Rudd cost to Australian taxpayers) – can be overturned tomorrow. And it most surely would be if, in fact, large numbers of asylum seekers were ever actually shipped to PNG.
This solution is a giant bluff. People smugglers will see through it and continue to ply their trade in a seller’s market. It will collapse; almost certainly much sooner than later. Of course, provided this does not occur before the election it will have satisfied its real function which is to improve Rudd’s reelection prospects. The boats will continue to come in large numbers until Howard’s policies are again put into effect and we start deciding to protect our own borders without going (mad) cap in hand to our much poorer neighbours.
That Abbott and company have embraced this so-called solution in principle is testimony not, I would hope, to their lack of common sense in normal circumstances, but to the dysfunctional political climate existing now in Australia. Rudd has succeeded in bamboozling a large chunk of the electorate and the left-fawning media, and clearly has unbalanced the Opposition.
Paul Kelly (The Australian) describes the solution as “smarter than anything Abbott has proposed”. To be kind to Mr Kelly and paraphrase George Orwell; it takes a very clever person to think that something as dumb as this is smart.
Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics