The Politics of Security
Long before the Tampa lurched onto our
political stage, politicians of all colours
knew security was the hot issue in the
As a junior media officer with the Carr
Government circa 1996 I remember it being
drummed into me: "safety and security"
- we had to put the words in every media
release; industrial relations, transport,
health and, of course, that hoary old
chestnut law and order got the treatment.
They've been doing it up at Macquarie
Street ever since: make people feel scared,
then get them to thank you for getting
tough on the things you fear.
This week, the police signalled they'd
had enough of this politicising of law
and order. I suspect most of the public
has too; after all the fear has moved
onto a much broader international stage.
It is insecurity that drives anti-globalisation
and the Fair Trade movement, as well as
the reactionary Hansonism that John Howard
has absorbed into his own political doctrine.
And then security became terror as September
11 and October 12 shook us out of our
insular complacency into an insular paranoia.
All of which is why John Howard is still
in The Lodge and the Federal ALP is in
disarray - a party seduced by the opinion
polls and easy grab is now caught in a
wedge between its conscience and the flaws
in its modern modus operandi.
Labor is stuck in a phoney discourse
that requires a 'tough government' digging
in and defending us from our perceived
and real vulnerability to the dangerous
hordes; to the Other.
Labor will never win on this turf. As
the Party of Change it needs to shift
the debate to the broader stage about
values. Values not fear.
The debate surrounding asylum seekers
is a threshold because it reflects the
broader dilemma facing the ALP.
Labor's values challenge it to take a
position that will actually make it harder
to win short-term political backing. But
it is this long-termism and its necessary
pain that Labor must conquer before it
will win office federally again.
A dialogue based on Labor values of fairness,
equity and, yes, compassion. As a movement
we need more federal MPs like Carmen Lawrence,
prepared to put values above expediency
to give us a Party worth fighting for.
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