Labor the loser in blame game over boats deadlock

Assylum seekers … refugee boat arriving on Christmas Island. “What kind of a person is it who watches that misery, watches that pain, sees that death, hears the advice from experts and won’t change their minds?” … Julia Gillard.
Nanjing Night Net

THE government has borne the brunt of the blame for last week’s policy deadlock on asylum seekers, while the Coalition and the Greens, who combined to block legislation in the Senate, come equal second.

The latest Herald/Nielsen poll finds almost nine in 10 voters, or 88 per cent, want the political parties to compromise to find a policy solution.

It finds 58 per cent of voters blame Labor for last week’s deadlock, while the Coalition and the Greens are statistically tied on 42 per cent and 39 per cent respectively.

Another 18 per cent blame the independents. Those polled were allowed to blame more than one party.

The poll of 1400 voters was taken from Thursday night to Saturday night, in the direct aftermath of last week’s dramatic events in Parliament.

On Wednesday, after the second boat sank in less than a week, Labor brought on debate and a vote on a bill by the independent MP Rob Oakeshott that would have enabled the government to send asylum seekers back to Malaysia as a deterrent, as well as reopen the detention centre in Nauru, as the opposition has demanded.

However, the opposition blocked the bill as it does not support the Malaysia plan and the Greens oppose sending asylum seekers offshore after they have made it to Australian territory.

With Parliament risen now for six weeks, there is no sign of the boats slowing. Another carrying 53 people was intercepted yesterday, making it 71 boats for 2012 and three at the weekend.

In June, a monthly record of 1781 people arrived by boat, almost three times the 600-a-month that the Immigration Department estimated would arrive after the High Court ruled the Malaysia plan illegal last year and Australia defaulted to onshore processing.

”The government still has no asylum seeker policy, Julia Gillard is still blaming Tony Abbott for her government’s failures and the boats keep on coming,” the opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, said.

Mr Morrison seized on an admission by the former minister Chris Evans, who said the Immigration Department did not warn of a surge in boats when Labor unwound the ”Pacific solution”.

Mr Morrison said that if this were true, it cast doubt over other departmental advice, especially that the Pacific solution would not work a second time and Malaysia was needed.

The poll finds 42 per cent of Labor voters and 71 per cent of Coalition voters blame the government for the policy deadlock.

Conversely, 63 per cent of Labor voters and 24 per cent of Coalition voters blame the Opposition. Both 42 per cent of Coalition voters and 42 per cent of Labor voters blame the Greens, who hold the balance of power in the Senate.

In an attempt to break the deadlock, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has outsourced the problem to a panel comprising the former Defence Force chief Angus Houston, the former Howard government diplomat Michael L’Estrange and the refugee advocate and lawyer Paris Aristotle. The panel will report on a preferred policy before Parliament resumes. Mr Abbott has dismissed the panel, saying the Coalition already has the Pacific solution, and will not change.

Ms Gillard said her government would place great weight on the panel’s findings and so should Mr Abbott, given lives were being lost.

”What kind of person is it who watches that misery, watches that pain, sees that death, hears the advice from experts and won’t change their minds one millimetre, won’t accept that advice at all?” she said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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