By Brent Heber
Let me start by saying that I wish the Labor party no ill will. My family has a long history of supporting the Labor party but I threw my lot in with the Greens a few years ago to follow good evidence based policies. I feel very strongly about evidence based policy and the need for Australian legislation to be based on fact, science and solid academic involvement. A meritocracy of sorts would be my utopia, where people with years of experience in the flow of refugees and world aid take responsibility for immigration, where transport experts are heeded on how best to solve congestion issues and religious beliefs have no place in a court of law or our parliament.
This weekend the Labor party held their national conference and on a few key policy areas they have backflipped, yet again.
Labor have looked to their right are now prepared to fall in with Tony Abbott on turning back boats of asylum seekers when they enter Australian waters. They are mimicking the Liberal line that it saves lives, when the regional facts show it doesn’t, it just pushes those desperate people away from our borders to die elsewhere. People seeking asylum are not “illegals” – they have a right to seek safety from persecution and turning them away is not lawful, even if Scott Morrison had the law changed to suit his own ends. More importantly it is not the Australian way, to turn our backs on people in need and Labor have clearly given in to chasing votes on the issue. Australia needs to show leadership in our region and victimisation of the weak and downtrodden is not strength of leadership. Onshore processing would also be much more affordable in addition to more humane. The current Liberal policy of outsourcing and privatising systemic abuse of asylum seekers to put the liability at arm’s length is costing us the taxpayer billions of dollars and has to end.
Secondly Labor have then looked to their left and the Greens for policies with wide support, renewable energy and marriage equality. They have upped their commitment on renewables to 50% by 2030, not to show vision, not because it is what science demands but simply to attempt to claw back votes from the Greens. Similarly with endorsing marriage equality, finally Labor have stepped up on this issue of human rights at a party level but only once the US and Ireland put the debate firmly in the mainstream media and illustrated how wide the support for this is within the voting population.
Changing positions to chase votes and win power is not leadership nor do I believe it should it be behaviour we endorse as a society, it speaks to lack of character and obsequiousness. What are we trying to teach the next generation? That being popular is more important than sticking to your guns when the going gets tough? In my mind political aspiration is about service to the best interests of your community and it is not a sprint to any single election – it’s a marathon and it’s about showing conviction over the long haul with tenacity and courage, but maybe I’m just a naive Greenie?
*Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the St George or NSW Greens.