Here’s Charles Richardson writing for Crikey today.
I’ve been involved in politics one way or another for about 30 years; I don’t think I had many illusions about it even when I started, and I certainly shouldn’t have any left by now. But I was surprised how touched I was by the action of the five Coalition dissidents yesterday on the refugee legislation.Here were people making a stand when in personal terms they had nothing to gain and much to lose.
John Forrest gave up a $13,000 a year allowance as Nationals Whip; Judi Moylan put her preselection in jeopardy. Nor do they face different electoral imperatives from their colleagues: only one (Georgiou) represents an inner-suburban, latte-sipping seat. The others sit for typical outer suburban or rural and regional areas; Broadbent’s McMillan is still marginal.
So full credit to them, and also to those who, like Warren Entsch, disagreed with their stance but made a show of support for their right to their own judgement. This is how democracy is supposed to work.
And it is more, not less, impressive because the vote in the House of Reps was ultimately futile: it was never going to threaten the passage of the bill. But the open dissent may give courage to their colleagues in the Senate, who really can make a difference.
It is interesting that explicit criticism of the dissidents has basically come from what can fairly be called the ratbag fringe of the Liberal Party Wilson Tuckey, Don Randall, and the like. The mainstream leadership, including Howard himself, has been much more restrained: they still have that much respect for the traditions of freedom of action on which their party was founded.
I left the Liberal Party ten years ago because I felt that the limits on freedom of action had become impossibly narrow. Yesterday gave a glimmer of hope that its condition might not be terminal.