While Kevin Rudd is prancing around from TV studio to workout session, posting his populist antics on YouTube, we trust he spares a thought for the young ladies of Macquarie University. So, too, Chris Evans, his former Immigration Minister, as he scurries away from the sinking ship that is the Labor government. Recall Senator Evans’ famous boast that the ‘proudest moment of his political career’ was when he and Mr Rudd dismantled Philip Ruddock’s successful border protection policies, soon after coming to power. This despite Mr Rudd having promised to ‘turn back the boats’ during the 2007 election year.
It is always easy to claim the benefit of hindsight, but any number of commentators were aghast at the time at the reckless way Labor casually tore down the Pacific Solution; an intricate, delicately-balanced and extremely effective set of measures that had for many years successfully eradicated the problem of people-smuggling onto our northern shores.
Five years later, notwithstanding Chris Bowen’s valiant efforts, the entire system is a hopeless, illogical, cynical mess. Boats arrive in record numbers, with no doubt many ghastly tragedies occurring unseen at sea. The system of processing is a chaotic human lottery of misery, with ‘bridging visas’ seeing asylum-seekers dumped willy nilly into our suburbs.
The ramifications were recently brought home to a group of young women in western Sydney. Campus Living Villages runs Macquarie University’s on-campus living arrangements. On their website, they boast their ‘facilities are designed to maximise the resident experience’.
What isn’t mentioned is that Campus Living Villages have also been offering this delightful accommodation to the Red Cross, who in turn have been housing dozens of unemployed, bored, lonely, perplexed and possibly mentally distressed male Sri Lankan asylum-seekers in rooms adjacent to dormitories occupied by single women. According to student Daisy Stone: ‘Only us and the townhouse next door are women, the rest are all refugees. We aren’t racist, we just don’t think it’s right to house us in the middle of them. It is so inappropriate to have a house full of 19- and 20-year-old girls, living in the middle of all these middle-aged men.’
Last week a young girl was sexually attacked in her bed in the dormitory, and police have arrested a young Sri Lankan asylum-seeker, who appears to have been unofficially sharing the on-campus accommodation. According to Sydney’s Daily Telegraph: ‘Many of the 9,000 asylum-seekers living in the community have been found sleeping in garages, on couches and in boarding houses.’
Perhaps Mr Rudd, clearly with so much time on his hands, could find the opportunity to visit the girls at Macquarie and explain the wisdom of his and Senator Evans’ reckless actions to them. He might even post their responses on YouTube.
‘I don’t think it would matter if you were the leader of Labor, the Greens, the Liberals, whoever; every Australian I speak to wants you to be leading the country,’ proclaimed a member of the Q&A audience this week. She was addressing her comments to Malcolm Turnbull, of course, in a discussion about arrogance and leadership, while Senator Bob Carr looked on, silently fuming. Mr Turnbull answered her with an appropriate degree of humility, honesty and loyalty to his party and his leader, without resorting to the platitudes that most politicians employ in such moments. ‘When you have these big collisions and cataclysms in your life,’ he said, referring to his losing the Liberal party leadership, ‘they either break you or they make you a wiser, stronger person.’
What Malcolm, perhaps understandably, glossed over was the fact that the overwhelming problem with his failed leadership was, ironically, that for many conservatives he may as well indeed — as the questioner suggested — have been leading ‘Labor, the Greens, the Liberals or whoever’. It was often difficult to tell, as he embraced climate change dogma and took to attacking his own political base.
The Malcolm who has emerged in the past year or so is indeed wiser and, in the process, has made himself and his own party stronger. It is to Mr Turnbull’s and Tony Abbott’s credit that their relationship is free of the poison that courses so freely through the veins of Labor regarding Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd. Yet again, Mr Abbott has proved himself an astonishingly adept politician at maintaining the unity within. In a neat inversion of Bob Hawke’s famous dictum, Mr Abbott has shown that ‘if you can govern yourselves, you can certainly govern the country’.