Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The end of the Pacific Solution

Last month Australia had an election, in which the lying rodent John Howard was not just defeated, but unseated. Since then, there has been a sea-change in Australian politics, with Howard's platform of climate change denial, toadying to the Americans, racism, and radical NeoLiberal economic policies utterly repudiated, even by his own party. The new Australian government has already ratified Kyoto, and now they've just dismantled another core part of Howard's Australia: the "Pacific solution" of dumping refugees in Nauru and refusing to admit them to Australia even if their claims were found to be justified. While Labor is still promising to be "tough on immigration", they have begun emptying their prison on Nauru and resettling its inmates in Australia.

It's obviously good to see decency reasserting itself across the ditch. But there's also a lesson in this: elections matter. It's trite, but none of this would be happening if Howard was still in power. While Kevin Rudd was derided as a "me too" candidate who would merely manage under the same policy settings as his predecessor (a mistake I'm guilty of as well), Howard's defeat was also seen as a defeat for his platform, and the subsequent bloodletting in the now-oposition parties opened up political space for significant change. It's a lesson we might want to keep in mind, given that we're going to the polls within a year...