Hang your head Australia. So many of us thought our Dark Age was past with the demise of the warmongering, child abusing, human-rights violating John Winston Howard clique. Not so. Ghosts of that ghastly man’s destructive rule still haunt the corridors of power. Sorry, not ghosts but real flesh and blood vultures ready to feast even before the hapless Gillard Labor ditherers breathe their last.

The cowardly plan of the “expert panel” on boat people enables Australia to slyly evade its moral duty. It is a plan that enables us, a la Howard, to once again sweep our responsibility to defenceless human flotsam under the welcoming carpets of economic basket cases, desperate-for-money-from-anywhere, Papua New Guinea and Nauru. “Just hand over the dosh, chaps!” the leaders of these two ex-Australian colonial responsibilities must be joyfully chanting below their breath.

Yes, it’s welcome to a re-run of Howard’s neo-colonial trickery.

On ABC RN radio, at the same time on Tuesday morning (August 15) — and getting about the same billing as the boat-people issue — was news that our Olympic gold medallists had been given a “special upgrading” on their charter flight home. I thought our Olympians had gone to Britain as a team! Everyone tried their best — and the team’s performance as a whole was very impressive — yet they were coming home with an “Elite Class” apart!

Yet again, the myth was being exposed of the “egalitarianism” Australians have been, quite self-deludingly, raving about since federation.

And, in Canberra, I’m told Tony Abbott’s hideous tribe of Liberals are practically filibustering in an orgy of ugly triumphalism. They were ready, they were saying, to go along with Julia Gillard’s backflip legislation. But, in doing so, they were first going to make Labor MPs — who for years have dared to strive for a bit of humanitarian decency in the boat-people debate — squirm in their plush seats.

“We told you so,” is ringing around what we now jokingly look to as “our parliament” and “heart of democracy” (a concept that is a joke at the best of times).

What Tony Abbott and his gang were doing in parliament on Monday and Tuesday was reaching out for every last racist vote the country has to offer; every last vote of the greedy, the narrow, the covetous, the brutal, the selfish — as well as all the frightened and cowardly who want all the luxury and benefits that flow from the capitalist globalisation of our planet but none of the pain and agony that globalisation has brought with it.

Meekly, and on a plate, Gillard has handed Abbott the opportunity to do so. Labor, over the years, has allowed the debate to stray from “refugees”, to “boat people”, to “illegals”, to “wicked people smugglers”, to “rich people trying to come in by the back door”, to “we don’t want people to put their lives at risk” . . .

And so it has gone on until the public, conveniently, has lost sight of the fact that these vulnerable people, in large part, are coming here because they are victims of societies rendered dysfunctional because of the oil greed and shock-and-awe weaponry of faraway nations — the US, Australia, Britain, France . . . Shame on our governments — Keating’s, Howard’s and now Gillard’s — for not resisting this spin-woven distortion and re-direction of the argument.

The moment parliament confirms this piece of heartless not-in-our-backyard-send-’em-offshore legislation will be a pitch-dark day in the history of a nation that once promised so much yet now is little more than a society of craven cowards. — Bob Hawkins

First published: 2012-08-15 03:48 PM