Tuesday 16th of July 2024

Beazley and the Georgiou Bills

Boy oh boy, what a week it was. DIMIA shaking on its foundations, the Kooyong rebels launching - after years of unhappiness with Howard's asylum policies - their trump card in the two Private Members' Bills, and Vanstone in the vice between Bill Farmer, incisive questioning by the Senate Estimates Committee and Petro Georgiou and friends.

After years and years? Come off it, you may say, but let me tell you, for the first time with a glimmer of personal political pride, that my own MP in Federal government, Judy Moylan, for Pearce, was the only parliamentarian to declare herself absent from Parliament when the Tampa Bills were rushed through in 2001 - because she refused to support them - and she told me that herself last year.

And the Private Members Bills were predictable, because we had written to Petro Georgiou and others in February this year, and The Bulletin and The Australian (articles also on our website) one month later reported, that Howard had been put on notice about the looming development.

This morning I emailed the Project SafeCom call to action to an estimates 15,000 folks (throughout our database and to about 55 'refugee lists' around Australia) asking people to contact their local MP's, the Georgiou five, and those in the coalition most likely to consider supporting the two Bills.

But what about Big Kim and Labor? Will they support the two Bills when they make it into parliament? I made myself rather angry this week, when Beazley kept uttering political smartnesses directed at John Howard - and yesterday I wrote a press release:

Beazley should stop playing politics with democracy and human suffering:

"Federal ALP leader Kim Beazley should stop playing politics in relation to the Liberal backbenchers' Private Members Bill or he will risk a similar revolt within his own backbench," WA refugee group Project SafeCom's spokesman Jack H Smit said this morning.

"Yesterday, Mr Beazley announced in The House as soon as he could and in reply to the Prime Minister's fury over the liberal backbenchers' Bill that the ALP would not allow a conscience vote, and with it, he played entirely on the Prime Minister's turf again."

"Beazley has clearly given evidence that he's more happy for a "me too" position on mandatory detention because of his fears that this atrocious policy, a creation by the ALP, comes unstuck, than that he cares to undo a very deep, very serious, and and ongoing human rights crisis in Australia. Beazley doesn't have the ticker when it matters."

"This week sees an opportunity for Beazley to join with the few in liberal ranks that use a desperate democratic process to address this serious crisis. While Beazley screams for a Royal Commission, he uses parliamentary quipping and playing ping-pong with John Howard instead of talking about the real issues."

"Beazley needs to state categorically that the ALP will support the Private Member's Bills brought by Petro Georgiou and his team, because the entire plan is in line with stated ALP policy, and in addition the facts have clearly shown that thousands of people, both those on TPVs and those in detention, are at mental and psychological risk because of John Howard's human rights abuses."

"If Beazley does not do this, he also risks a situation where dissent in his own ranks of backbenchers will grow to such an extent that Labor will just duplicate the coalition with own crisis of dissent. Beazley needs to ask himself whether people such as Carmen Lawrence, John Faulkner and others are also living as ticking time-bombs in relation to what we do to refugees."

In today's Sydney Morning Herald, readers voiced the same indignation in So now it's mandatory detention of political morals:

As an indication of how little the ALP has learnt over the years, Kim Beazley won't allow Labor MPs a conscience vote on mandatory detention ("Beazley rules out conscience vote on detention bill", Herald, May 26).

The ALP still hasn't figured out that what many people want is an alternative to the Howard Government, not just a poor imitation of it. Until the ALP finds the ticker to openly discuss and challenge the Government's positions on difficult issues facing us, it'll just stay in the detention of impotent opposition.

Paul Gittings Russell Lea

I note that Kim Beazley and John Howard are not going to allow a conscience vote on asylum seeker amendments. Does that mean politicians from these parties vote against their conscience on these matters, or perhaps it's just coincidental when they don't? Why is it in Australia it's seen as being so treacherous for a politician to "cross the floor"? No such problem in Britain or the US, our other willing partners.

Peter Fraser Lindfield

Does the refusal of both major parties to allow a conscience vote on our immigration policy confirm that both believe their policies to be unconscionable?

Tracey Carpenter Bathurst

And Tim Dunlop in 'The Road to Surfdom' Blog (26 May 2005) says:

Again, though, Beazley played it badly. He was more keen to shore up what he imagines is his tough-on-illegals image than to consider the proposed changes on their merits. The fact is, we know pretty much what the bills contain. So while Beazley could've held off giving final endorsement until he'd seen the detail, there was plenty of room for him to signal a different approach and what's more, take a lead on the issue.


I truly wish it was Labor pushing through changes of this nature. It perhaps doesn't go as far as I would like, but it is a brilliantly crafted compromise. The Georgiou bill actually handed Beazley an opportunity, but he has fluffed it, making baseless taunts about conscience votes and faux-macho statements about mandatory detention. It was a disgraceful performance.

As commenter tim g says:

"But what about the possibility that leadership - actual leadership, not just political strategy based on exhaustive polling - might be able to lead public opinion, even create it? We've all forgotten this fact because we've seen so little of it in recent times."

Exactly. There was no better time to take a lead on this issue and Beazley didn't. To not be willing to move on this issue is to presume the sort of low opinion of Australians that John Howard has, where he believes his continued electoral success depends on this abhorent policy, something I have argued against a few times.

So - will Beazley and the Federal ALP take this opportunity to throw Howard in detention over his inhumane policies, or will Beazley again be missing in action?

Tanner's gambit

Have a look at Mike Carlton's comments in the Sydney Morning Herald today:

"The encouraging signs are that more and more Australians are disgusted at the wretched excesses of the Government's immigration agenda and its blundering, at times brutal, execution. Howard's political antennae, usually so acute, seem to have missed this by a country mile."

"But so, too, has the Labor Party, notional defender of the weak and the oppressed. As the Government hard line unravels, has anyone heard a sensible word from the ALP's immigration spokesman, Laurie Ferguson?"

"Not a peep all week, so far as I can find. Still scarified by the Tampa horror, Labor's shameful policy is to scrunch itself into a small ball, hide itself under the table and hope nobody notices it's in the room.'

And Maxine McKew's conversation with Lindsay Tanner on ABC Lateline last night:

MAXINE McKEW: But, Lindsay Tanner, this week Kim Beazley was still defending mandatory detention. Now, this brings me to my next point, and that's the bigger question about wither the policy. As you know, Petro Georgiou plans to bring in two private member's Bills next week, and I gather the detail of this will bring about an amnesty for those who are currently in detention and some kind of custodial arrangement for others. Now, this will put the acid on Labor, won't it?

LINDSAY TANNER: Maxine, I broadly support Petro Georgiou's Bills, and they're roughly in line with Labor's position. They're not identical, but they're broadly similar to Labor's position. If we ever get to the point of actually debating them and voting on them in the House, I'll certainly be advocating within Labor that we should support them. But you need to keep in mind that the chances of us ever getting to the point of debating and voting on them are pretty slim because the person who makes that decision is John Howard. It's pretty unlikely that he is going to allow those Bills to ever see the light of day. They'll be formally moved, and then it's to him, it's up to his government to decide whether they're going to allow them to be debated. Now, if they're debated, I'll certainly be advocating within Labor that we support them, even though there are differences of detail on a number of issues between Petro Georgiou's position and our policy. I'll certainly be fighting within Labor to support them, and I know numerous of my colleagues will do the same.

Project SafeCom, Narrogin WA
"....proudly undermining human rights abusers since September 2001"

refugee bill

I have heard that unless the Liberals accept the bill on the notice page it will not see the light of day. Is this correct?

Hamish: yep.


So this means we should ALL be letter writing, there may be some surprising results if we just keep with it.

Troeth joins the fray

The Hon. Judith Troeth, Senator for Victoria has also declared her hand supporting the Georgiou/Moylan Bills according to ABC Radio.

Project SafeCom, Narrogin WA
"....proudly undermining human rights abusers since September 2001"

Re: Judith Troth

Hi Jack, how dare she do that?

I can no longer refer to the "fab five"!

But I must admit the "saintly six" has a good ring to it too.

In all seriousness, momentum seems to be gathering pace on the mandatory detention issue as well as (hopefully) on the IR issue.

May it turn into an irresistable force which will sweep "Little Johnny Jackboots" to his political doom.

Fly on the Libs' Wall

Hi John - the day has not ended. Here's the ABC report - and I think we'll hear other names by the end of the day. I'm having fun, and a fantasy of Michelle Grattan in the corridor outside the party room with a notepad, chewing her pencil, ear against the door - thinking of a Walkley Award....

Project SafeCom, Narrogin WA "....proudly undermining human rights abusers since September 2001"


I am told there needs to be 12 in all who vote for this Bill to get up.

But in reality will the people out there care, or is it only the Almighty Dollar,

As Mr.Beazley's stakes seamed down today with News Poll, because it is said that he was not going to vote on the Tax cut, I understand why he was going to do this, to point out the difference for the have's and have nots.

I dont think unfortunately if this bill gets up it will change the Poll's.

I wish I was wrong. But what it will do is give people hope for a fairer Australia, they way we use to be. We did not lock up newcomers in the 50'/ 80's. Remember the boat people from Vietnam and the Chinese students who stayed on after the troubles in China. Why now I ask you all out there, have we as Australians changed so much that the Dollar and what we get means more to us than goodness and caring for our fellow man.

It is time we once again put ourselves in other people shoes. And thought long and hard what it would be like. The efffect on the children would be herendous and then of course the Medical Bill s in years to come. So effectivley the tax payer pays twice, while these poor souls are in detention and when they need medical help to fix up what we could have averted.

Well we will just have to see. If the Polls went up if this vote was to come to pass i would say Australia had turned the corner.