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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Asylum Seeker Swap with Malaysia Unfair

When Tony Abbott said Labor’s new plan for the asylum seeker problem was a ‘panicked, desperate thought bubble’, it’s hard not to agree with him. Labor is floundering so badly, they don’t seem to have any credibility left. Maybe Wayne Swan can pull a rabbit out of the hat tonight when he brings down the budget, but I doubt it. With memories of the ceiling insulation and school building debacle still in our minds, they have another scheme ready to be rolled out – free set top boxes for pensioners. Labor has budgeted for $400 for each pensioner across Australia and the box itself can be bought for as little as $50. Although the principle of helping old age pensioners is commendable, it’s their track record of implementing policies that brings them undone. This time Wayne Swan says it will be done properly and tenders will be called for so let’s hope they get it right.

Tony Abbott has stepped up his attack on Labor’s asylum seeker deal with Malaysia – he doesn’t like it - and quotes the bleeding obvious - that Labor has gone back on everything they said they hated about John Howard's refugee solution by adopting one that some might argue is even tougher. Malaysia will be falling over themselves to sign the deal because it's very much in their favour - we send Malaysia 800 asylum seekers who arrive by boat and in return, we would accept 4,000 genuine refugees from them over four years.

People waiting in Malaysian camps have no access to welfare, are not allowed to work and living conditions are cramped and overcrowded. Julia Gillard ruled out John Howard’s Nauru solution because they are not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. Now she’s decided that Malaysia is okay and they aren’t a member of the convention either. It certainly sounds like policy was being made on the run and rumour has it that neither the Cabinet nor the Labor caucus were consulted before the announcement on Saturday. Opposition Senator Abetz said "Here we have an exchange of one for five and Julia Gillard thinks it's a good deal. I'm sure that Malaysia thinks it's a great deal because they are clearly the winners in this situation.”

Another critical question is can the Prime Minister send children to Malaysia knowing how appalling living conditions are there? I think this will get her into a lot of trouble, especially with the Greens. Ms Gillard said "If you get on a boat then the risk you run is that you end up in Malaysia and I'm not going to put any conditions or caveats on that," she said. "We expect resistance, we expect protests but no-one should doubt our determination to get this done."