PHILLIP COOREY August 16, 2012
Eight days shy of the 11th anniversary of the standoff aboard the MV Tampa, the Parliament is on the cusp of reintroducing the Pacific Solution and a new row has erupted about what to do with a group of asylum seekers picked up by a merchant ship.
Tonight, the Senate will pass the legislation enabling asylum seekers to be processed on Manus Island and Nauru.
But the political fight is not over. The Coalition is determined to not let Julia Gillard neutralise the so-called issue of border protection and will keep raising the stakes until Labor introduces every element of its policy, including temporary protection visas and turning boats around.
The Coalition was salivating this morning when the West Australian newspaper reported a merchant ship bound for Singapore picked up 68 asylum seekers near the coast of Java.
One asylum seeker was lost overboard and the ship's captain wanted to take the survivors to Singapore. But they protested and, fearing for the safety of his crew, he turned around and took them hundreds of miles to Christmas Island.
The opposition said this showed the government was weak. These people were pirates, said Scott Morrison. Tony Abbott said John Howard sent the SAS aboard the Tampa to stop its people landing on Australians soil and Julia Gillard should have done the same with the MV Parsifal.
''John Howard met the Tampa with the SAS, Julia Gillard met the Parsifal with a welcoming committee,'' he said.
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said this morning the asylum seekers ''became very aggressive and the master of the ship made the decision to turn the vessel around and head to Christmas Island''.
The opposition demanded the police investigate and prosecute for piracy, although Howard did nothing of the sort with those aboard the Tampa.
''What we have here are pirates effectively taking control of vessels, allegedly ... using force and threats and intimidation,'' Mr Morrison said.
Later this afternoon, the shipping line released a statement saying it was not piracy but the threat of self-harm which encouraged the captain to head for Christmas Island.
"While the survivors' demeanour was agitated and the master was concerned that they could pose a security threat to the Parsifal's crew and vessel, there was no physical aggression," the shipping line said.
Not quite kids overboard but, still, 11 years on and very little has changed.