You know it's election year in Australia when politicians over there start beating up on asylum seekers.
From the hysteria whipped up you'd think tens of thousands of the buggers were invading Australia's shores, threatening the Ocker way of life.
The sad fact of the matter is that the number of boat people who make it to Australia makes up a tiny percentage of the overall number of people emigrating there. There is no crisis, and there never was one.
But the new PM Julia Gillard is sounding more like John Howard on this issue. She is doing so because there are votes in it, not because it is the right thing to do.
Now John Key says people smuggling will become an issue for New Zealand. I'm not sure how. We already accept a tiny number of refugees into this country every year (up to 750), though the maximum number is seldom reached. Even if a few boats got here, it's hard to see this becoming a crisis, unless we want it to be. We could do a lot more than we already do, and comfortably.
Certain politicians have made a career out of whipping up hysteria over foreigners. A load of boat-people turning up would be just the sort of platform someone like Winston Peters needed to relaunch his political career. Could you imagine the mileage he'd get?
Australians and New Zealanders should recall their own settler origins. The people who came from Europe in the 19 Century were mostly poor and unskilled, and in Australia's case were often convicts. If we were vetting them now under today's standards they'd all be sent back.