If the Labor Left can’t get boat turn backs right, then why do they exist?

How is this even a question? 

At a meeting in Sydney over the weekend Labor’s left faction was unable to finalise a position on  asylum seeker boat turn backs to take to the upcoming ALP National Conference.


As one senior left source was quoted to say, “It’s fair to say no position was agreed to. Discussions are going to continue right up to the national conference.” 

I just have to repeat myself one more time: how is this even a question? 

Here’s a really quick hint. The answer is actually quite simple. 


No to boat turn backs. 

No to legislation that imprisons doctors for reporting child abuse. 

No to mandatory offshore detention. 


For years the Labor left have told us that the only way we can get a progressive Government is through the ALP. As the only viable alternative Government, we need to “change the ALP from the inside”. Nowhere has this been more active than in the issue of asylum seekers — whether it is the campaigning of Labor 4 Refugees or MPs such as Melissa Parke speaking out against the party’s policies. Even when ALP members have voted for the return of offshore detention and the recent Border Force Act (the one that makes it illegal for people to report child abuse occurring in detention centres) progressives have tried to make out that it is all for the greater good — whether it is saving lives at sea or creating space to defeat the worst of Tony Abbott’s policies.  

It is not a strategy I agree with, but it is one I understand and can try to respect. At least people are trying to do the right thing. With factional numbers shifting left at this year’s national conference, it even looked like it could finally be bearing some fruit. Maybe, we could at last see some change? 

But now it is clearer than ever that it is all just a farce. 

The left of the ALP have always justified their position by stating they were stuck supporting bad policy because that was what the party mandated. Change the party though at that would no longer be the case. But now they’ve even given up on that. For the first time in years the left potentially has the numbers at the ALP national conference. Instead of using those numbers to overhaul the party’s policies they are still debating whether or not they should support one of the worst elements of the Coalition’s agenda. 

The left have ceded the ground to Tony Abbott, turning away from the principles of compassion and care for those in need, the free movement of people and a Government that doesn’t lock up people indefinitely and for no reason. Worse than that they’re not doing it because they think it’s right, but because they fear they are going to lose. That is not a movement of people trying to make progressive change. That is a movement of people interested in gaining power, no matter what the cost.  

The left of the ALP have always been complicit in the atrocities of our asylum seeker policy. They were complicit when they voted with their left-wing hero Julia Gillard to reintroduce mandatory offshore detention. They were complicit when they campaigned with Kevin Rudd to introduce the PNG solution. They were complicit a couple of weeks ago when every ALP left Senator voted against the mandatory reporting of child abuse inside detention centres. 

But now they are no longer just complicit. They are becoming active accomplices. And in doing so they are becoming just as bad as Tony Abbott. 

Boat turn backs: it should not even be a question.

The fact the Left are struggling to come up with an answer shows how redundant they have become.  

Simon Copland is a freelance writer and climate campaigner. He is a regular columnist for the Sydney Star Observer and blogs at The Moonbat.

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