MICHELLE GRATTAN June 28, 2012
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young breaks down during debate on Oakeshott's border protection bill in the Senate this morning. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
THE disconnect between what was happening on the high seas yesterday and the scenes in Federal Parliament was extreme - and it was an indictment on the leaders of this nation.
As sailors struggled to rescue the latest victims of a shoddy boat and a rough ocean, the wheeling and dealing and arm twisting to get the numbers went on in the House and behind closed doors.
Tears and torrents of rhetoric (not, at least as time went on, referring a great deal to what was going on at sea) do not camouflage the stark reality. Nothing concrete is likely to come out of almost six hours of debate.
In political terms, Julia Gillard won an important victory. She took a risk and pulled it off - it would have been bad for her if she had lost. She has got the Oakeshott bill allowing offshore processing through the lower house, but when it comes to a Senate vote today, the Greens are committed to killing it off.
Unless the Greens have an epiphany, a policy stalemate will remain and no deterrent can be put in place. People will get on boats in the next few weeks, and some of them may never get off.
Both government and opposition (and the Greens) can call on persuasive arguments for their stances; there is no high moral ground. But the time has come to compromise, morally and politically, so as to get a policy with a chance of success. The drownings demand it.
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