Tony Burke might be a product of the NSW Labor Right, but somehow it’s hard to see him channelling Barry Goldwater: “Extremism in defence of liberty is no vice” and all that.

Indeed, it’s hard to be convinced by Labor’s me-tooism on the detention of Mohammed Haneef.

Labor – or the Labor leadership, anyway – has intelligently decided that rather than jumping up and down about wedges, it’s better simply not to fall for them.

Kevin Rudd has deftly sidestepped the indigenous intervention issue. Haneef, though, is a different matter. Put simply, yesterday’s bail ruling suggests the government’s much-vaunted terror laws offer Maginot Line protection. 
But John Howard and Philip Ruddock didn’t just have static, defensive weaponry. Fortunately they were able to fall back on immigration law.

Still, the thing is their terror laws didn’t deliver. Pointing that out would be a simple, effective and devastating form of attack. But it’s virtually impossible for Labor to say that. The terror laws have already got too many hackles raised.

All Labor can offer is feeble me-tooism. “On the information he [Kevin Andrews] has presented today it appears he has acted entirely appropriately under the Migration Act,” Tony Burke has said – adding that Labor will seek its own briefings on Haneef.

In other words, he has no courage in his convictions – or simply no courage.

You can only get away with this sort of line for so long. Labor must be hope that the news agenda will change soon.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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