Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

Trends in Coalition asylum seeker policy and global/regional refugee movements

I had an article published in the main Crikey e-newsletter today, outlining some of the trends, facts and government responses to the well over 40 million refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced and stateless people around the world.

It seems likely the issue of asylum seeker boat arrivals will once again be moving closer to the political centre stage in Australia, even though these currently number less than 1000 out of those 40 000 000 plus people.

Media commentary about Tony Abbott having reaffirmed his political ‘heavy hitter’ credentials during the recent ‘ute-gate’ stoush is being intertwined with suggestions he might be shifted to the shadow Immigration portfolio.  Understandably, this is one area the Coalition thinks they could score some political points off the government, given the political gains they made exploiting the issue in the years leading up to 2001 and beyond. Quite a few of the dynamics on this issue have changed since then, but given their current political difficulties, it might be tempting for the Coalition to be tempted to take the low road again.

I’ve previously pointed out that Petro Georgiou would have made an excellent shadow Immigration Minister, as he has more extensive knowledge and understanding of this area than pretty much anyone else in the Parliament, with the possible exception of Philip Ruddock.  But Mr Georgiou has since announced he will not recontest at the next election, so that option is now out.

Current shadow Minister Sharman Stone has had a mixed performance to date, but I don’t envy her having to not only get on top of a detailed and complex area of policy, but also having to navigate the much more tricky matter of the deep politcial differences within the Coalition parties in this area. I don’t see much benefit in shifting her just so someone else has to start all over again in getting up to speed in this difficult field.

It will be an interesting test of Mr Turnbull’s leadership to see what he does in this area – not so much because immigration is a potential political point-scorer issue for him, but because it is an area of policy which is crucial for Australia economically, socially and culturally, as well as being pivotal in how the Australia of the future sees its place in the world. Australia has suffered from a lack of attention to general policy and administration in the immigration area the past decade because of an excessive focus on asylum seekers and political point-scoring. The last thing our country needs is a return to that approach (and refugees & asylum seekers could do without it too).

(please leave any comments over at the site of the Crikey article)

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Mini Posts

  • Rhetoric vs reality

    I’ve had a break from writing for a variety of reasons, but the reckless approach the new Queensland government is taking to their spending decisions – and the straightout nonsensicality of some of their claims – roused me enough to pen a piece for New Matilda. Time will tell whether the Newman government will start trying to ensure their statements have some connection with reality – I suggest the way they respond next year to the findings of the inquiry into child safety which they’ve established will be a significant test.

  • End of LP the end of a blogging era

    Back in October, I wrote here about the decline or re-defining of blogs, at least in the Australian political arena.  The relatively few posts I’ve done on this blog since then shows how much less useful I find it to do my own blog than I used to, and as I mentioned back then, a big reason why I don’t read many of the blogs I used to is because the valuable links to many interesting stories, ideas and pieces of information can be found more easily through Twitter or Facebook, sometimes with comment threads which are also at least as good.

    The recent announcement by the Larvatus Prodeo blog that they are ceasing to operate is quite a significant one. I don’t suggest it means the end of independent commentary online – as the last post on LP indicates, many of those involved will continue to do similar things in other ways. But, whilst not quite the end of an era, it is a significant signpost in the evolution of independent political blogs.

    (I know my headline to this post does say it’s the end of an era –  was going to say it’s the end of a blogging phase, which is probably more accurate but frankly makes a pretty lame looking headline)

    http://larvatusprodeo.net/archives/2012/04/10/larvatus-prodeos-last-post/
  • A final comment on Labor’s leadership laments

    Fundamentally, I don’t greatly care about the outcome of Labor’s leadership travails. As my previous post indicates, the bigger issue is that the ALP is being fundamentally damaged by the toxicity of this brawl, and the fact that the brawl is happening in this way is a sign of some much greater problems within Labor. Whatever the immediate outcome, I think those problems are likely to continue.  The outcome of the leadership contest (including the size of what will surely be a Gillard victory) will shape how those problems play out, but they will still be there.

    Not surprisingly, I see this as presenting an opportunity for the Greens to build some support, but more importantly it presets extra responsibility and obligation for the Greens to be a stronger counter to what is a seriously reactionary Coalition.

    But seeing we’re all pundits now, and despite having little inside knowledge, my prediction is that there will be no ‘third candidate’ in tomorrow’s leadership ballot.  Julia Gillard will win comfortably. The instability will not disappear. It’s quite possible there will be another leadership ballot before the election but Kevin Rudd will not become leader then either. No matter how good Kevin Rudd looks in the polls, that polling lead would disappear very quickly if he was back in the PM’s job.

  • The Ups & Downs of Ups & Downs – interview with Greg Atkinson

    I’ve mentioned before my liking for the 80s Brisbane band Ups and Downs. I got a chance to interview their lead singer Greg Atkinson on 4ZzZ FM a few weeks ago. They’ve released a compilation CD of 20 of their best tunes and played a gig in Brisbane earlier this month to promote and celebrate it.

    It was a fairly long interview, but I found it very interesting to hear the views of someone who has been active in the independent sphere of the music industry for so long about what has changed and what is the same.

    You can listen to the interview at this link.

  • Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

    A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition at The Studio on the ground level at the State Library of Qld this week, commemorating that anniversary. It finishes this weekend – I strongly recommend you try to get along for a look if you have a chance. The Library also has a screening of the documentary Hope on Friday October 28 – this film tell the story of Amal Basry, one of the few survivors of that tragedy.