Lots has been written about Tony Abbott's performance on Q&A last night. These included reports on his observation that "Jesus didn't say yes to everyone", and a claim that he "left his tough, macho, bully boy persona at home last night and almost managed to woo a room full of small-l liberals" (that commenator obviously didn't note that half the audience were rusted on young liberals who applauded Abbott regularly).
Abbott fairly noted that he doesn't see the PM or NSW Premier being asked to relate their Christian beliefs to matters of public policy. The reason might be because no-one anticipates it would be so much fun as seeing Tony struggle to reconcile the two.
Refugees offer a classic case. Abbott tried to argue the proposition that once a person has left their original country they are no longer in fear of persecution and have no reason to travel further. Apart from the fact that this means Australia should, by definition, never have to deal with refugees, it also misses the point about what "fleeing" really entails.
There are two things about a person fleeing that I think can be reasonably expected. Firstly they want to get a long way away. Secondly they are highly unlikely to have undertaken any calculus about what the relevant laws are like and the real advantages or otherwise of their specific destinations. That's why "deterence" is really a bad policy.
As for Jesus it is worth remembering (as excellently portrayed in the first episode of the History of Christianity showing on the ABC) that Jesus was a Jew. We also know - from both the Biblical and other records - that the Jews were a refugee race. They were not native to the region of Israel (nor were the Palastinians).
Where Abbott got himself more tongue-tied was on immigration and population policy in general. He tries to invoke the refugee intake as a big number in population planning. In reality it is not, and what's more the coalition Government of which he was a member was responsible for the biggest immigrant numbers we've ever seen. It was even the Government that experienced the biggest number of arrivals by boat.
Aside from these figures it is worth noting that the greatest number of "unauthorised" persons in the country are those over-staying their visas who entered by plane.
While Abbott stews in this mess, he has been caught out again with his pathetic interpretation of what "holding the government to account" means. He needs to recognise the need to stand for something other than raising the tax rates on big business.
While all parties now talk about holding policies back to the election, the big winners are those that are announced well before. The role of the NBN announcement in early 2007 in controlling the debate and creating the idea that the ALP stood for the future should never be under-estimated. It is fine for the likes of Malcolm Colless to continue to write nearly incomprehensible tirades against the policy, including again supposed carpeting of the Minister and winges by his Cabinet colleagues. But that policy was a significant factor in the win. As they go to the 2007 poll their excuse for non delivery will be opposition obstructionism.
Meanwhile the coalition is left with one place less to look with Malcolm urnbull's announcement that he is not contesting the next election.