Any retreat on refugee policies would sink Shorten

Any retreat on refugee policies would sink Shorten, by Troy Bramston.

The biggest policy challenge Bill Shorten faces ahead of the next election — and especially if Labor is returned to office — is maintaining support within the party for the largely bipartisan suite of border protection policies that includes offshore detention and processing of refugees, and boat turnbacks.

Most of Labor’s members, and many of the party’s candidates and MPs, including some on the frontbench, do not support the policy. The degree of opposition within the party to these border protection measures is extensive and will require careful management, otherwise it could derail Labor’s election chances.

Shorten knows that any weakening of border protection policy would be dangerous politically. He knows that if there is any watering down of the policy, or any softening of rhetoric, it could be immensely damaging for Labor. The reality is that the vast majority of voters in marginal seats will not tolerate a major change in policy. …

At the recent NSW and Victorian Labor conferences, dozens of motions sought to abandon or significantly change the policy. They were not successful. Labor for Refugees, an internal lobby group, will campaign to change the policy at Labor’s national conference in December. …

But Albanese??

The same cannot be said for Anthony Albanese, who has had more positions than the Kama Sutra. He supported abandoning offshore processing in 2007-08. Then he supported reintroducing it during the Rudd-Gillard government. Then he voted against boat turnbacks, a critical element of both major parties’ border protection policy, at the Labor national conference in 2015. Now he says he supports Labor’s policy in full.

This latest backflip is seen as a further attempt to court Labor’s Right in his quest to become party leader. Nobody believes him. Remember what he said after voting against boat turnbacks? “I couldn’t ask someone else to do something that I couldn’t see myself doing,” Albanese said in 2015. “If people were in a boat including families and children, I myself couldn’t turn that around.” Which Albanese are we meant to believe?