Thursday 14 Oct 2021 | 09:18 | SYDNEY
Thursday 14 Oct 2021 | 09:18 | SYDNEY

Did Labor just hand Gusmao a lever?


Sam Roggeveen


7 July 2010 10:18

The conventional wisdom about Prime Minister Gillard's tactics — that, prior to calling an election, she is 'clearing the decks' of potentially weak issues which the Opposition could use to hurt the Government — seems convincing. First there was the resources rent tax, yesterday we saw the asylum-seeker issue addressed at the Lowy Institute, and Ross Gittins speculates that we could see a green subsidy package emerge soon in order to cross climate change off the list.

But back to asylum seekers — is that issue crossed off with a pen or just a pencil? I noted yesterday the highly equivocal language in which Timor-Leste and New Zealand had spoken of the 'regional processing centre' initiative. Alex Oliver backed this up with her post on the official Timor Government media release. It seemed these two countries were doing the absolute bare minimum to make Gillard's announcement credible.

This may simply have been because they had so little time to study the idea, and it should also be noted that, on Lateline last night, Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos Horta's language was slightly more positive:

If Timor-Leste, if prime minister Gusmao were to be amenable to such a possibility of Timor-Leste hosting a processing centre for asylum seekers, if he were to be amenable to that, I am in principle in agreement, based on my very profound humanitarian convictions.

So it seems Prime Minister Gusmao has the casting vote. Australia's relations with Timor-Leste have been rocky of late, with Gusmao having some unkind things to say about Australia. If he dismisses or even just criticises the idea, what does that do for the credibility of Labor's policy, and for Labor's election chances?

Photo by Flickr user Rusty Stewart, used under a Creative Commons license.