The PM is about to announce 'changes' to asylum seeker policy. She has asked for an open debate and for the name calling to stop on both sides of the argument. On the face of it, Gillard appears to want to try to take the partisan politics out of the refugee debate.
A worst case scenario would be a pandering to the fear whipped up by Abbott and his fellow travelers, who see political opportunity in pandering to fears of 'boat people' harbored by many in the community. Howard turned this into an art form.
It seems to me that Gillard has an opportunity to present the facts on refugees and seek to conjure a return to bi-partisanship on immigration and refugee policy. Of course that won't happen while the extreme right has control of the Liberal Party, but it is a sound message for the broader populace. Fear politics has no part to play in immigration. It smacks of xenophobic and entitlement politics, which has become a stock in trade of the right wing in Coalition circles. However, there is a rump of labor support drawn to these drum beats as well.
It is time to show true leadership and chart a course that is both practical and humane.
Julian Burnside has a piece worth reading in Tuesday's Age.