Back’s boats

Senator Back is doing the rounds with a strong anti-boat-arrival theme. I fired back a letter in frustration, which I’ll get to in a moment.

First, I’ll mention something else I discovered. Back sent out two letters, about a month apart, each accompanied with a pamphlet on how Labor is failing to “stop the boats”. The content in general is no great surprise (i.e. thoroughly depressing), except when it comes to comparing the numbers. Here are the graphs shown in the pamphlets:

1st pamphlet (arrived June 2010)

2nd pamphlet (arrived July 2010)

Now, of course, the first uses financial years while the second uses calendar years, but look closely. The numbers do not add up. Specifically:

  • the first graph shows three arrivals in ’03-’04, while the second shows only one in ’03 and none in ’04; and
  • the first shows eight arrivals in ’05-’06, while the second shows only one in ’05 and three in ’06.

The first pamphlet is (roughly) consistent with official figures. (The figures for Labor are roughly consistent with the pamphlets having been printed a few months apart; they look different, but I can’t spot any definite inconsistencies).

Here’s my more general response to Senator Back:

Dear Senator Back,

I read with great annoyance your second letter and pamphlet regarding boat arrivals and the mining tax.

Labor has capitulated on asylum seekers (and climate change). Your party might claim some credit for this, but now that the moral highground is there for the taking, why do you persist in this spurious and degrading line of argument?

I am not worried in the least about the number of boat arrivals, and your graphs and numbers mean nothing to me. Frankly, I find the whole issue bizarre and offensive. How does the Liberal Party propose to assist those people fleeing persecution who are clearly unable to come via the official channels? If you do “stop the boats”, surely you will only increase the suffering felt by such people, who are apparently not wanted anywhere. You don’t seem to offer an alternative, other than suggesting that Australia wash its hands of the problem.

I would vote for the absence of policy sooner than I would vote for yours.

It’s almost as though the two major parties are actively vying to be the more perverse and incompetent. Labor has done everything it can to break our trust, and yet the Liberal Party runs scared of offering anything better. I find it incredible that you’re not able to put together a policy framework to put Labor to shame, because Labor has handed you this opportunity on a silver platter.

On the mining tax, very few disinterested experts seem to agree with your point of view. As you know, the mining tax was proposed by Ken Henry in a comprehensive review of the tax system; the Labor Party merely adopted it. Moreover, I’m unsure of the relevance of the figure you quote – the proportion of revenue coming from Western Australia. I’m an Australian before I’m a West Australian, as I hope you are. WA is not a nation in its own right. Australia and all its people own the resources on which the mining tax is to be levied; that much of that mineral wealth happens to be found in WA is neither here nor there.

There are many genuine reasons for changing the government. It’s time that the Liberal Party stood up and took notice of them, because as it stands now you do not offer an alternative.