EDITORIAL: Border protection farce continues to haunt Labor

The Nightly
3 Min Read
The Anthony Albanese Government’s handling of both immigration and border security has been nothing short of disastrous. 
The Anthony Albanese Government’s handling of both immigration and border security has been nothing short of disastrous.  Credit: Lukas Coch/AAPIMAGE

Liberal governments deliver surpluses. Labor governments spend.

Liberal governments are tough on borders. Labor governments are soft.

Anthony Albanese knew he had to nullify these two popular perceptions in voters’ minds in the lead-up to the 2022 election, just as he knows they have the potential to force him into minority government at the next.

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On the first point, he’s had some luck. Treasurer Jim Chalmers has delivered two consecutive surpluses, though they were courtesy more of unexpectedly high iron ore royalties than any spending restraint or fiscal genius on his part.

Still, the Prime Minister can go to the next election hand-on-heart claiming his Government has banked Australia’s first surplus since the days of Peter Costello.

On the second point, he can do no such thing.

Prior to the 2022 election, Mr Albanese was insistent that Labor’s policies on border protection were virtually the same as the Coalition’s. There was an acceptance that they’d lost the ideological battle. Australians did not want to return to the days of desperate people, conned into making perilous journeys by people smugglers, dying by the hundreds on our doorstep.

And so, Labor would continue to support Operation Sovereign Borders.

Labor would continue to support offshore processing of those seeking asylum.

Labor would continue to support third country resettlement for those whose claims for asylum were found to be genuine.

The only point of difference was that Labor would end the use of temporary protection and safe haven enterprise visas — but this was only a small tweak which would apply only to those who arrived in Australia prior to 2013.

It was reminiscent of Kevin Rudd’s 2007 mission to morph into Howard-lite — all the stuff you liked about the Liberals but with some of the spiky bits filed down to be a little more palatable.

But if anyone fell for it in 2022, they know better now.

Labor’s handling of both immigration and border security has been nothing short of disastrous.

Record levels of overseas arrivals pushed Australia’s population up by 2.5 per cent (or 659,800 people) in the year to September 2023. Housing has failed to pace with demand, fuelling a crippling nationwide housing crisis. Labor now says it will cap new arrivals at 260,000 by 2025.

Boats carrying asylum seekers are once again turning up in the nation’s north.

But most damning are its repeated and significant failings on immigration detention, which have compromised community safety.

The latest chapter of this slow-motion implosion is the revelation that nearly one in five of the non-citizens released after the High Court’s ruling that indefinite detention was unlawful are alleged to have reoffended since their release.

That’s in addition to news that a number of violent foreign criminals were allowed to remain in the country as a result of Immigration Minister Andrew Giles’ direction that strong connections to Australia could be used as grounds to fight deportation orders.

The level of incompetence displayed has been something to behold.

And it has solidified in voters’ minds that damning perception that Labor has been so desperate to shake — that it can’t be trusted to protect our borders.

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