Labor forgets Tampa lesson again at their peril

Caption: Labor have inexplicably gifted a win to the Coalition.

Twice in the past two decades, Labor have been hammered at the ballot box on the issue of border security. Undeterred, they?ve come back for a third arse-kicking.

In the early 2000s, the Howard government was cruising to defeat. The 1996 landslide victory had turned to narrow defeat in 1998, and the ?mean, tricky and out of touch? Coalition looked to have no hope of fending off Labor in 2001. While the 9/11 attacks certainly helped boost the incumbent, it was the Tampa incident that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

History looks like it is repeating. Quote:

Labor has suffered a sharp fall in popular support after the clash over refugees and border security.

The party is now leading the Coalition by 51 to 49 per cent in its narrowest result in more than six months. End of quote.

From in the lead-up to the Tampa, thousands of illegal immigrants had been lobbing up in boats. Howard reacted by implementing the first turn-back policy. When the MV Tampa picked up a boat-load, and tried to ferry them to Australia instead of the nearest suitable port, Howard stood his ground. The Coalition?s sinking polls soared. When Labor defeated the Border Protection Bill, voters punished them: Labor were mauled and Howard won an unprecedented swing for an incumbent.

In 2013, Tony Abbott buried Labor on ?Turn back the boats?. Quote:

The results, contained in an Ipsos poll conducted for the Nine newspapers, show last week?s row over the refugee medical transfer law passed by Parliament has resulted in a shift against Labor.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has seen his net approval fall from minus nine to minus 12 percentage points.

The poll found Prime Minister Scott Morrison had a marginal increase in his net approval, from eight to nine percentage points.

Voters prefer Mr Morrison over Mr Shorten as prime minister by 48 to 38 per cent, the poll found. End of quote.

Shifty is a viscerally disliked opposition leader. Labor have just been coasting along on the Coalition?s disastrous Turnbull experiment. But voters seem to be looking for an excuse not to support Labor. It looks as though they?ve found the reminder they needed. Scott Morrison may have found the circuit-breaker he desperately wanted. Quote:

The prime minister is continuing to pile pressure on Labor for supporting the medical transfer changes, saying he could ?drive a truck? through the protections they put in place.

?Our government will be doing everything within our powers – despite what the Labor Party have done to undermine our border protection regime – to ensure these boats don?t come,? he told reporters in Tasmania.

?Last week Labor weakened our borders, what I?m doing today is to strengthen them.? The legislative changes will only apply to people who are already in offshore detention; any future boat arrivals will not be affected.

However, the prime minister has argued this ?nuance? will be ignored by people smugglers trying to entice asylum seekers onto boats.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said it was also ?implausible? a future Labor government would not extend the medical transfer laws to new arrivals. ?At the first conceivable opportunity Labor had to soften what have been very tough rules around who comes to Australia they took it,? he told the ABC?s Insiders program on Sunday. End of quote.


No-one seriously doubts that Labor would relax the rules as soon and by as much as they can. Even the ?refugee advocates? parroting the current lame defense don?t seem to really believe it: after all, their sworn mission is to ?bring them here?.

The next couple of months of polls will be interesting watching. Labor may well have just pissed away an unloseable election.