Rudd can’t duck this one
Crikey – Rundle: Rudd, Ruddock and the deep, dark currents of fear
14 October 2009 Guy Rundle writes:
God it was like one of those Japanese horror movies, where a ghost appears on a videotape, and everyone who sees it dies.
Lucky Phil Ruddock, hovering round the backbenches these past years — possibly because he knows that he’ll be a pariah when he leaves — popped up to tell us of TEN THOUSAND asylum seeking illegal queue jumpers coming our way.
“They’re waiting in Iran, in Pakistan, in Syria …”
In Manangatang and Naracoorte and Dimboola and Jerilderie … they come from everywhere man.
To say Ruddock was enjoying himself would be a category error, but he appeared to be getting some relief from being the Coalition’s scapegoat for the shame of its refugee policies.
I don’t mean he’s been blamed or set-up. The scapegoat is not sacrificed — instead he is sent into the desert, loaded with the tribe’s sins.
The scapegoat is not worthy of sacrifice. The tribe purifies itself, by forgetting he ever existed.
There was the old demeanour — the skin like wet paper mache, waiting to be molded, the hair like a wreath of cigarette smoke. Ruddock, a man of liberal instincts some years, decades, ago, took on the refugee thing for complicated reasons. It chewed him up, and spat him out, and the result, pulsating with resentment and vindictive and premature triumph, is what we now see on our screens.
But is he right? Can this thing be kicked into touch?
The answer is unknowable, because what happens in the next six months will tell us as much about the past as about the future. If Labor does not panic, and holds the line at some level, and the issue does not once again move to the centre of political life, then we know with greater certainty what this country is.
We will know that the bias in creating Tampa politics lay with the Howard government – that they enrolled the evil angels of our nature in a campaign consciously framed to inflame, in the medical sense, certain sensitivities in the body politic, that had abated but not yet disappeared – a fear of boats from the north, whether it be the Russians, the Chinese, the Communists, the red menace, the yellow peril, the burnt orange fashion of the 1970s…
However, if it all starts up again, then we will know we are in a different kind of trouble — if we simply get a re-run of the Tampa hysteria, then we will know that these currents run much deeper in Australian society, and that it has less to do with the political manipulation of some old fears, than with a modern indifference to the suffering of others based on selfish and foolish notions that occupying an island-continent somehow means we can pick and choose our engagement with the world.
Of course if Labor doesn’t hold some sort of line, if it goes the full fear root, and tries to leapfrog the Libs on border security, then we won’t know anything.
But there seems little likelihood that Labor will do that – not necessarily because they are more moral than the Coalition (though they are), but because there is no upside to it.