Asylum-seekers a distracting non-issue

by Richard Denniss in The Canberra Times
Originally published in The Canberra Times on September 2, 2011

One of the main roles of a prime minister is to determine the priorities of their government. Should we focus on tackling climate change or on indigenous disadvantage, should we focus on making it easier for employers to sack their workers or should we focus on asylum-seekers? Of course with the entire machinery of the Commonwealth Public Service and a budget of about $300billion a year, prime ministers can walk and chew some gum at the same time. But no matter how capable they can’t juggle, tap-dance and read a book while they are at it. Hard decisions about priorities must be made. One of the main roles of political strategists is to advise their leader about the degree of overlap between genuine policy problems, widespread community support, and the potential for an issue to unite or divide your side of politics or your opponent’s. The perfect political storm arises when you can identify a solution to an important problem that is both popular and that unites your team while dividing your opponents.

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