Despite positioning themselves as the party of empathy, and despite having nothing to lose, Labor has failed to stay true to their morals and decided to let the innocent suffer.
This family is led by Priya and Nades, who were living quiet, productive lives in the Queensland town of Biloela, a town like so many others which requires people, families, in order that their local services are kept running. Nades was a valued employee at the local meatworks, his wife Priya gave birth to two little girls while living here. In Australia.
The day after Priya’s visa expired in March 2018, Border Force took the entire family from their home, 1,800km away to a Melbourne detention centre. In what may be one of history’s greatest understatements, the town of Biloela wants this family back.
The Labor party has been silent on this, and yet have all but nothing to lose if they actually do the right thing and take a stand against the inhumane treatment of humans under our care. They literally have nothing to lose. They’re in opposition for up-to-the next three years.
A lot can happen in that time, and so there’s no reason not to get on the right side of history. But here we are.
Traditional political understandings have taken something of a beating the last couple of years. Numerous times recently we found ourselves in the wake of big-ticket items up for debate (Trump, Brexit) and the commentary from those you’d think have an understanding of issues such as these would be along the lines of “surely, common sense will prevail.”
And then it doesn’t, and then you’re left scratching your head that even people with the most astute understanding of political science end up being as insightful as those who prognosticate the weather or the results of the Spring Racing Carnival.
The screenwriter William Goldman once said when it comes to the business of films and winning awards, “nobody knows anything,” which it seems is true in politics as it is in the arts. But the show goes on, and those of us who presume to know one thing or another will continue to speculate and get it wrong.
Conventional wisdom has the result in a federal election being decided in western Sydney. As goes them western suburbs, so goes the nation. That’s conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom also has the new leader of the opposition stepping into the place of a fallen leader not winning the next election. Having said that, the notion of three Prime Ministers inside of six years because of intra-party squabbling would suggest a monumental routing at the polls. And, conventional political wisdom would suggest that an opposition taking tax reform to said poll because a current system (with your franking credits and whatnot) is, by no measure of any strain of economic thought on the planet, a sustainable tax policy. But then, the voters made their choice and they’re said to never get it wrong.
I was asked why I thought they were being silent on issues of human decency. It comes down to tradition. The ALP have mortgaged their empathy in favour of hopefully winning government, because you don’t win votes by taking a stand alongside brown people.
So, with such wisdom in our sights, we turn our lonely eyes to he who for now is the leader of the Australian Labor Party in opposition to Her Majesty’s government.
My great-grandfather was a Labor Party member of the WA Legislative Assembly in the early part of last century. You learn certain things when you go digging, so it came to me as…unpleasant…that forever enshrined in the parliamentary record, on July 11, 1906, he stood and spoke to that chamber regarding a Bill before the house, and said, “The Minister is to be commended inasmuch he has noted that it is dangerous and risky for white men, Australians, to work below ground with men who cannot speak the English language or read it.”
He went on about foreigners for a bit and I needed a lie-down.
To say that the Labor of old is the Labor of today is as fallacious as to say that the pizza of last night is the same as the bowel movement of this morning. One thing eventually became the other, but there was a lot of machinations taking place in the space between. So my great-grandfather apparently was a) a product of his time and b) towing the party line when it came to the White Australia Policy, a cornerstone of foundational ALP politics. It’d be fairly safe to say that the man was a racist by today’s standards (or 1906’s, for that matter). I’d like to think he was just doing what the party said was the case, but even I am not that naïve. It was the case, it is no longer.
Or so I thought. It seems the votes are to be gotten. I’ll go ahead and assume that Albanese wants to be Prime Minister, and is under the mistaken apprehension that his wish will one day come true. I’m also going to assume that he believes that as goes the western suburbs of Sydney, so goes the nation, and that being generous and kind and exhibiting the base kind of humanity towards some suffering humans is apparently too much for people who like franking credits and are more concerned with a smattering of jobs at the Adani coal mine than they are about anything else. Let’s not concern ourselves with the fact that there are but a smattering of jobs for locals there once the thing is built, that it will do immeasurable, irreversible damage to the natural environment, and that the coal they’ll dig out of the ground isn’t going to be that crash hot, vis-à-vis quality. And we’ll ignore the fact that the paltriest percentage of the nation actually works in mining in the first place. But that’s neither here nor there.
I was asked why I thought they were being silent on issues of basic human decency, and it comes down to tradition at the end of the day. You don’t win government by pledging to do the right thing. The ALP have, one presumes, mortgaged their empathy in favour of hopefully winning government in 2022, because you don’t apparently win the right votes by taking a stand alongside brown people. My great-grandfather would apparently agree, and he was born in 1874. We now win at any cost.
Apparently, it’s fine to live on your knees, because dying on your feet achieves little. One of the Gospels asks, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”
You get a go if you have a go, apparently. Whatever the fuck that means.