Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Magnificent Seven – and the rest are just sheep

This column in the Border Mail is worth saving to my archive. It tells the tale of seven politicians with guts and integrity and the sorry bunch they call colleagues:

"I ALWAYS voted at my party’s call

and I never thought of thinking for myself at all.”

So sang the buffoon the Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter KCB, explaining his rise to the eminent position of First Lord of the British Admiralty in Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera HMS Pinafore in 1878.

Today, almost 130 years later, we may conclude there are more than a few small-brained Porters in the ranks of the Coalition Government.

The Prime Minister has cut and run sharpish-like from his migration legislation, blown away by the decision of just one government senator to vote against it and of another to abstain, which would ensure the defeat of the legislation.

The action of the two senators follows opposition to the legislation last week by three government members and abstentions by a further two in the House of Representatives.

What passes for progressive thought in Australia applauds this dissent as a victory for a more humane approach towards the predicament of the saddest of the sad and neediest of the needy, those who seek asylum by coming to our shores by boat.

This column joins those who think that way because the Government’s legislation would have confined women and children in detention in far-off Nauru, asylum-seekers held in that island would have lost the legal protections they would have had in Australia and, even if found to be refugees, they may still have been confined in Nauru indefinitely.

Confinement of such people in our own distant gulag, out of sight and mind, is a rotten solution to the problems raised by the few asylum-seekers we receive (certainly as compared with some other countries) and blots our reputation as a humane country.

This column asks why only three government members and one senator were actually prepared to oppose this bill, and three more to abstain.

Only seven!"

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