The disappointment of Rudd’s immigration compromise

””Rudd has an approval rating of 68 per cent [71 per cent in the Nielsen poll]. He has the unanimous loyalty of his caucus. He has an almost non-existent Opposition.

He is in a unique position to change the debate. Changing the way Australia deals with race would be pretty special – that’s Labor hero stuff.”

Paul Howse, quoted by Peter Hartcher.

When Kevin Rudd was promoted to opposition leader, and then voted in as Prime Minister, there was a great deal of optimism about what that might mean for Australia’s policy framework; specifically with respect to adopting a more compassionate approach, specifically after having read some very very positive things in Rudd’s essay on “Faith and Politics“. And initially it appeared that the hopefulness was justified:  there was an apology to the stolen generation, temporary protection visas were scrapped…

But this recent asylum seekers debate has seen KRudd taking a distinctly Howardly line: “I make absolutely no apology whatsoever for taking a hard line on illegal immigration to Australia.” (source) I can understand Rudd needing to tow a party line, with respect to this issue; but the tone of the rhetoric is bordering on insulting, from the same man who wrote the following:

“Another great challenge of our age is asylum seekers. The biblical injunction to care for the stranger in our midst is clear. The parable of the Good Samaritan is but one of many which deal with the matter of how we should respond to a vulnerable stranger in our midst.

That is why the government’s proposal to excise the Australian mainland from the entire Australian migration zone and to rely almost exclusively on the so-called Pacific Solution should be the cause of great ethical concern to all the Christian churches.”

I still firmly believe that Rudd, for the most part, wants to do the right thing here. But it’s one thing to write of lofty ideals while you’re the shadow foreign minister. Quite another to carry that out when you’re the guy in charge.