You would expect Bill Shorten to be all over what the Government has been doing on Manus Island. You’d expect his Deputy, Tanya Plibersek, to be demanding the centre be shut down.
You’d expect Richard Marles, the Shadow Immigration Minister, would be calling for Scott Morrison’s head. And yet, there’s been nothing.
Actually, there’s been worse than nothing. There’s been complicity.
As of Wednesday, one asylum seeker held on Manus has died, scores have been injured, there are reports that the facility was stormed by vigilantes and there is a complete and utter refusal from the Government to honestly reveal what happened.
The Opposition (and I’m using that term very loosely) are siding with the Government. The PNG Solution, instigated by Kevin Rudd when he was Prime Minister, is still an ‘important’ policy according to Marles. Nothing else meaningful has been said by the Opposition on the matter. There’s been some lame and carefully worded expressions of concern and a hope for a proper investigation, but that’s it.
To put it bluntly, in the face of overwhelming evidence that the PNG Solution is tantamount to human rights abuse, the Opposition are acting like cowards more intent on saving their own political skin than doing the right thing.
Even their call for an investigation is utter crap. Those parliamentary inquiries are next to useless when it comes meting out justice to those responsible. How many ministers went to jail over the Children Overboard scandal or Oil for Wheat? Do you think anyone will wind up in the clink for the Pink Batts fiasco?
Ministers hide behind their advisors and their advisors effectively answer to no-one. You’d think that everyone who works for a minister could be held accountable in a Senate inquiry or commission into wrongdoing, right? Wrong.
Advisors slip through the cracks. They’re not public servants and they’re not elected representatives. They’re considered the personal staff of the minister involved and as such, the same rules that apply to everyone else do not apply to them. Sure, there’s an impressively named ‘Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff’ but that has no legal status at all and the only person who can enforce it is the Prime Minister.
Hands up who thinks any PM would force a staff member to give evidence if it meant a member of Cabinet would get the sack?
This is why you see Scott Morrison smirking on the television, claiming he hasn’t read the documents in question. If he doesn’t technically know what’s happening, he can’t be accused of misleading Parliament. His personal staff on the other hand can do whatever the hell they like.
The ALP know as well as the Government that any parliamentary inquiry would be meaningless unless a number of parliamentary-instigated protections for ministers were wound back first. Those protections shelter Shorten’s lot as much as they shelter Abbott and Morrison.
You’ve really got to question who we’re electing to represent us.
There’s no opposition, there’s no government oversight and the media can’t get any straight answers. It’s even been reported that G4S guards have forbidden doctors treating the injured from speaking to the media. G4S is a private company, they are not police, they are not government, they have absolutely no authority to forbid a private citizen outside of their employ from speaking to anyone.
Shouldn’t the Opposition question what the hell G4S is doing?
If there are any members troubled by their conscience within the Opposition at the moment, they’re keeping their mouths shut. This is what disgusts so many people about the ALP: they’re spineless.
The ALP need to stand for something real. They need to ditch the lame talking points and slogans and say the PNG Solution was wrong and must be abandoned. A man has died directly as a result of this policy. What the hell else needs to happen before ALP ministers stop protecting their own political arses and do the right thing?
On Radio National Wednesday morning, Tanya Plibersek defended Rudd’s PNG Solution, saying how worried the ALP had been about people drowning and how awful it was that people smugglers were ‘making money from human misery’.
It would seem that trying to win votes from human misery is okay though.
Ironically, according to Radio National, Iran is now officially complaining that it was one of their citizens that was killed in the Australian-run Manus Island detention centre. Tanya Plibersek thought that was a ‘bit rich’ considering that Iran is well known for trampling the human rights of their own people.
Plibersek’s argument is a little bit like saying ‘Oh come on, he was going to die anyway, who cares where? I know Australia locked him up and then someone killed him, but at least he didn’t drown at sea’.
Surely no-one could still be buying the whole ‘we just don’t want to see people drown’ bullshit. If you care that much about them, why lump them in facilities where they get stoned to death and shot at?
None of this has anything to do with saving lives and everything to do with punishing innocent people because a small but apparently valuable percentage of the Australian public get off on it. That both major parties court the votes of those people makes my skin crawl.
The ALP has to change. It can earn itself some credibility by taking a stance, even if that means the short term pain of owning up to past mistakes and dodgy dealings. That would not only be the right thing to do, it is increasingly the only thing they can do if they have any hope of ever earning the respect of the country again.
As one of Labor’s most famous ministers once sang, ‘It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.’
MORE ARTICLES BY CORINNE GRANT
*Corinne Grant is a stand-up comedian, MC, presenter, writer and broadcaster and has performed both nationally and internationally. In addition to her years on Rove Live and The Glasshouse, she has appeared on everything from Spicks and Specks to Dancing With The Stars to Good News Week. She has co-hosted successful national radio shows, performed countless solo live shows and appeared everywhere from the Sydney Opera House to the Kalgoorlie Arts Centre. Corinne’s first book, Lessons In Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder (Allen and Unwin) was released in September 2010 and went into reprint just months after its release. You can follow her on Twitter @corinne_grant.