Labor pains or Labor smarting? A
subscriber contacted the Opposition leader last week to congratulate
him for moving Laurie Ferguson from the shadow immigration portfolio:

I am pleased to see that you finally removed Laurie
Ferguson from a role for which he was ill-suited. I fear that the
mistake of appointing him has probably lost you some valuable time in
building an effective alternative to the present government. I feel
that it is not good for democracy when an opposition is not effective.

would not include Kevin Rudd in these comments. He has been doing his
best while the rest of the team got their act together. I hope it will

The subscriber was rewarded with this response from Ferguson:

Thank you for your profound analysis. I refer you to the
Newspoll of this week – Labor in front of the government on immigration
for the first time in four years.

But there was a follow-up:

Thank you for your email. As you are aware I have been
switched from the portfolio. It was certainly rewarding to continue
work with the reasonable, informed wing of the asylum movement –
Amnesty International, the Refugee Council, STARTTS, Hotham Mission
etc. Equally, the period continued my lifelong work on international
human rights.

However, I have a degree of relief in escaping
that wing of the movement who had been rejected from other cults such
as the Moonies, La Rouchites, Scientologists etc. They are a group
which even Groucho Marx would have joined.

In the past week, I
have received a stream of supportive, unorganised correspondence. They
range through a leading refugee lawyer/advocate, a Palestinian
intellectual who has been fighting for his offshore claimant uncle and
many NESB groups. Their support is far more persuasive than your
comfort zone rhetoric.

Yes, well, there are refugee advocates who, when you call for specific
information on specific cases, give you a rant on the evils of
mandatory detention – but could Laurie only see things in factional

Meanwhile, The Australian
reports today that Laurie is enjoying a redundant junket to Europe to
investigate immigration matters, even though he is no longer the shadow

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey