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"I will be very clear of one thing, this party and this government will not be lurching to the right on the question of asylum seekers."

For a couple of years, I've - quietly, privately - wished that refugee politics would just go away. Not that the refugees would, but that a toxic issue and the poisonous conversation around it would cease to be live and important on Australia's political stage. That, given the apparent impossibility of a genuinely humane policy, the ALP would stop trying to win votes by outfoxing Tony Abbott - Malaysia, Manus, Angus Houston - pass something close to what he demanded, and take the issue off the table. This would not be a victory for asylum seekers, but there didn't seem to be any victory in sight for them, and there were and are plenty of other reasons not to want Tony Abbott to cruise into the Lodge.

This was not an optimistic hope. It seemed, desperately sadly, to be the best we could anticipate. Even that hope has been violently, utterly dashed.

Briefly, I thought Kevin Rudd might get us there. Suggesting that Tony Abbott's policy might lead to conflict with Indonesia was brazen and fairly implausible. It was quite probably done in bad faith. None of those things, though, are new to refugee politics, and if it helped to make Abbott less bloody-minded about his policy and blow the whole issue out of the water, then good.

It didn't, of course. And now Australia has closed its borders. There is nowhere on Australian territory which has not been excised from the migration zone. Everybody who arrives on a boat will be dispatched to Papua New Guinea, where they will either stay or be dispatched to their former homes. This is a country with no respectable provision for the rights of refugees. This is unforgivably brutal.

And why? Tony Abbott will not now throw up his hands. There is no limit to how horrifically we can treat refugees. If both parties remain determined to be tougher, we will rapidly become a very different kind of country, the kind nobody wants to live in and no right-thinking person can do anything but condemn.