Will this weekend be remembered as the one where the refugee debate officially moved from Howard-era principles? On Nine’s Sunday remnant, Julia Gillard had little choice but to take the high road, or less low road, on asylum seekers, emphasising ‘world of refugees’ people on move etc, when Laurie Oakes quoted an early 2000s speech of hers back at her.

On Insiders, Chris Uhlmann quoted Rudd’s hero Bonhoeffer to the effect of ‘who will look after those abandoned or persecuted by the state?’. Panel discussion was all about the contradiction between Rudd’s projection of moralism, and his attempt to reach for the tough-guy hat.

Paul Kelly, who had earlier trotted out the ‘left has learnt nothing’ line, fell into tune with the chorus, surprise, surprise. And in the Sunday Age Chris Berg put the classical liberal case against harsh border regimes.

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We’re yet to see new polling on what people feel about boats, refugees, etc – but the conservatoriat may be unpleasantly surprised by them. It’s quite possible that public feeling has shifted markedly since those crazy days of 2001. In any case it has become clear to everyone what Crikey noted last week – that Rudd cannot present himself as Howard II on this. Worse than being immoral, it wouldn’t work.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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