However much the debate over irregular boat arrivals has been refocused by the shocking loss of life at sea, it is plain that domestic politics continue to motivate the main players.
Australians’ paroxysmal concern with refugee boats is potent electoral poison. The report by the expert panel on asylum seekers has provided the government with a face-saving measure to renege on its electoral promise not to re-open processing centres on Nauru or PNG, while encouraging the opposition to smugly assert that its policies have been given the green light. It just remains to be seen whether the opposition really does want to “stop the boats:” for it, the boats are an electoral blessing that facilitates a discourse on government neglect and incompetence.
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