Acting PM showed real leadership

On Wednesday morning, 15 November, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil declared on television that there was nothing the federal government could do about the recent High Court ruling that foreign criminals, including convicted murderers, rapists and child molesters, be released from detention into the community.

Such was the heinous nature of the crimes that had been committed that these criminals’ home countries did not want them back.

Or, if they were to return home, they would be detained and made to face the death penalty for their crimes.

But the federal government had been aware for the best part of six months that the High Court might rule for the release of these criminals.

This would have been ample time to frame legislation to ensure that once released, these criminals would be adequately supervised.

However, no such legislation was forthcoming.

There was an outcry over this: in sections of the media, within federal parliament itself, and among the general public.

So, on Wednesday evening, the government finally announced that it would frame emergency legislation.

The Opposition offered to provide amendments to this legislation.

But when it was presented to parliament on the Thursday morning, it was on a “take it or leave it” basis.

The Opposition were furious.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton angrily exclaimed that even with a cursory reading of this legislation, it was obvious that it was inadequate.

Once again, he demanded that amendments to this legislation be allowed, for the purpose of strengthening it.

For once, it was probably a good thing that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was out of the parliament, and out of the country.

If he had been present, in his ideologically-driven stubbornness and stupidity, he would have insisted that the legislation be rammed through, without amendments, whether it was adequate to the task or not.

But, thankfully, Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles thought differently.

On Thursday afternoon, he took four of his ministers around to Peter Dutton’s office to ask to peruse the proposed amendments to the legislation.

Peter Dutton himself is a former police officer who has dealt with such things as domestic violence and child molestation. The amendments he wanted to put forward included preventing convicted pedophiles among the released criminals from going anywhere near children, preventing convicted rapists from going anywhere near their victims, and requiring all released criminals to report to police daily.

Richard Marles agreed to include all six of Peter Dutton’s amendments into the legislation.

This was something which, as far as I am aware, was unprecedented in Australian politics.

An acting prime minister was willing to accept the advice and the help of an opposition leader.

Late on Thursday night, the amended legislation was passed with the support of both government and opposition.

This was something which, given the appalling way in which politics in Australia is usually conducted, bordered on statesmanship.

That day, I glimpsed hope for this country.