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Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 18:22 | SYDNEY
Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 18:22 | SYDNEY

Politics never stops at the border

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26 September 2011 08:26

I've been waiting a while for the local press to note the international dimension of Australia's current asylum seeker squabbles. Finally George Megalogenis of The Australian has:

Gillard and Abbott are the self-absorbed bogan couple arguing over which neighbour should look after their pet greyhound while they take a holiday. He says that family from Nauru seems nice. 'Don't be silly,' she sneers, 'they’ll feed it doughnuts.' She says the Malaysians next door are safer. 'Knock it off,' he yells, 'they'll beat the damn dog.' Everyone in the street can hear them fighting, but they look the other way and pretend to be grateful when the call comes to mind the pooch....

We should be celebrating Malaysia's attempt to play a more constructive role now. But Abbott has another focus group to impress, so he undermines the relationship Gillard tries to build because he can't allow her a win on any issue. Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop got in touch with the Malaysians this week to assure them the prime minister-in-waiting meant no offence. Which is a shorthand of way saying: 'Whoops, we might have'. Bishop is one of the few on the Liberal side who understands how dangerous Australia’s suburban self-obsessions can be for our interests in the region. In this, she is closer to the approach of Alexander Downer, Tim Fischer and Peter Costello than Abbott or his immigration spokesman Scott Morrison. The foreign affairs minister, the trade minister and the treasurer in the Howard government immediately sensed the danger Pauline Hanson posed and spoke out often, and loudly, to defend Australia's engagement in Asia. Howard also got it later in his term. But Abbott isn't one for nuance. If there is a vote to be had by playing the KL card, then that, presumably, settles the matter.

Australian officials have spent a decade building impressive regional cooperation on people smuggling. Through misteps and partisan point-scoring we now risk it all. Read the whole thing.

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