Tony Abbott, June 27:

“We also think it makes sense to offer people who are prepared to try to come to Australia the right way, rather than the wrong way, more opportunity to do so.”

Tony Abbott, yesterday:

“This is the last message that we should be sending to the people smugglers and their customers, that we are making it easier for people to come. [We’ve got an] out-of-control budget as well as out-of-control borders, and by not increasing the intake in this way, we would save, on the government’s own figures, something like $1.3 billion a year over the forward estimates.”

Sensible in June, unworkable and wasteful in November. That’s quite a backflip.

Not content Labor had effectively adopted the entirety of John Howard’s Pacific Solution, that after years of bitter division a position of relative bipartisanship had been reached, Abbott decided he needed a point of difference. In vowing to cut the humanitarian intake by 6000 — even after an independent panel of experts concluded upping it to 20,000 could help discourage deadly boat journeys — he now has it. Combined with a plan to put those in Australia on bridging visas to work — for no pay.

Both sides of politics have reached the conclusion Australia’s approach to asylum seekers must be tough, cruel even, to maintain border integrity and save lives. Abbott’s over-reach is simply the worst kind of politics.


Crikey Calling is independent media for independent minds – in handy podcast form! Join the Crikey crew – including Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane, the country’s sharpest political commentator – for a lively (if somewhat wonky) look behind the scenes of politics and power in Australia.

In yesterday’s episode, Keane and Crikey editor Jason Whittaker discuss the vexed issue of asylum seeker policy and the latest on the federal government’s Murray-Darling plan — stream it or download here or subscribe via iTunes.