DIMIA head Bill Farmer’s Order of Australia a new political manoeuvre
by John Howard? Is it a pre-emptive, face-saving dog whistle? Is the PM
prepared to make concessions over mandatory detention but still trying
to send a message to his supporters on the populist authoritarian Right
that he still believes in his “tough” policy?

There’s a certain logic there. Howard will get a mauling in The Sydney Morning Herald’s
letters page over Farmer’s gong, but then could strike a deal with the
moderates while keeping the former One Nation voters onside. Could.

Michelle Grattan
has an interesting wrap on the Georgiou bills today. It contains detail
on the negotiations between Georgiou and his band, and ends with the
suggestion that the prime minister is out of date on this issue.

The source, presumably, is Georgiou himself. Grattan’s piece echoes his own feature in The Age from late last month.

Georgiou is now pushing ahead with two private member’s bills aimed at
dismantling mandatory detention after failing to reach an agreement
with the prime minister.

a clear split in the government on the issue – but it still remains to
be seen how far it will go and how far it will be allowed to go. The
Georgiou bills may be introduced to Parliament as soon as next Monday
and he will get to speak on them for five minutes, but that’s it.

no guarantee they will be voted on. As we said at the end of May, the
government schedules the legislative agenda. Unless they win the
support of the government of the day, most private member’s bills
vanish without trace.

The prime minister has said he doesn’t
agree with the bills’ provisions – and that the majority of the
government agrees with him. That’s not a reason to use parliamentary
procedure to stop a split on the issue. The split is already there.
Despite his comments yesterday on opposition “flip-flopping,” it’s the
prime minister who faces a ticker test here.

John Howard should
allow a full debate – and a conscience vote on this issue. Conscience
votes are rare – but have traditionally been granted on matters of
moral and social belief. This is one of them – and that’s a fact that
can’t be fudged by the Howard.