So we’re now told
that DIMIA droogs knew that Cornelia Rau was an Australian last year.
While the pundits speculate how much longer Amanda Vanstone can get
away with the Sergeant Schultz defence – “I know nuffink!” – an
aide-memoire on the Coalition refugee revolt arrives from Margo Kingston:
Don’t forget the last real big backbench revolt – in 2000
from memory – and also over mandatory detention, this time the NT’s
laws mandating prison for kids convicted of stealing. Danna Vale led
the charge, saying she’d cross the floor to vote for a bill passed in
the Senate to overturn the law. She backed down when she fell one or
two short of the numbers required. Supporters included Nelson, Baird,
Georgiou and Hardgeaves, from memory. But the rebels did get two
things. They got a debate in the Reps where they had their say – no
vote allowed – and they got money and monitoring from Howard. There’s a
reasonable chance Howard will do a similar deal this time to avoid a
floor cross – if, as seems likely, the rebels can’t get the 13 votes
required to pass their bills.
Now, the blog boys might sneer, but I think it’s quite possible to be a
Margo fan and support the reasons behind Enoch Powell’s resignation as
financial secretary to the Treasury in 1958 – and she’s reminded us of
an interesting episode in the history of the Howard Government. The
2000 revolt dealt with the possibility of Commonwealth legislation
overriding the Northern Territory’s mandatory sentencing laws that saw
minors imprisoned for petty theft, based on the precedent of the
private member’s bill sponsored by Kevin Andrew that knocked out the
NT’s euthanasia laws.
refugee revolt is way, way more serious. Firstly, it directly concerns
policies that are the responsibility of the Howard Government itself.
Second, Petro Georgiou’s a much tougher cookie than Vale ever could be.
Georgiou was the budding don talent-spotted by Liberal fixer Tony
Staley and drafted into Malcolm Fraser’s office as the events of 1975
drew toward their climax. He’s a very different customer – one of the
few people in the government who might be wilier than Howard himself.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
to add some further interest, let’s not forget that the minister with
the most responsibility for current refugee policies and their
administration, Philip Ruddock, famously crossed the floor himself in
the 80s to vote against his own party on a matter of conscience. Much
of John Howard’s success has been attributed to his ability to silence
– or, at least, contain – dissent. Can he keep the lid on this one?
Vanstone, her predecessor Ruddock – and the PM – must be relieved the
Rau revelations are emerging as Parliament rises for a week.
And Democrat Senator Andrew Bartlett takes a flick-knife to the prime
minister’s justification for mandatory detention on his blog here. Worth a read.