OUTGOING Fremantle Labor MP Melissa Parke delivered a passionate valedictory speech decrying the inhumanity of offshore processing in federal parliament this week.
Chris Brown, Labor’s new candidate for the seat, warranted just one perfunctory line in the speech.
“…I wish my successor in Fremantle for Labor, Chris Brown, every success in the coming election and in carrying out this important role.”
That may have something to do with the fact Mr Brown is a vocal supporter of Labor’s support for offshore processing and, with the backing of key left faction unions, had defeated Josh Wilson for Fremantle preselection.
Mr Wilson, Fremantle’s deputy mayor, is a long-term staffer for both Ms Parke and her predecessor, Carmen Lawrence.
“Josh is an extraordinarily talented individual and I look forward to following his future career, wherever that takes him,” Ms Parke told parliament.
Mr Brown says there is no tension.
“I have worked with Melissa in the past on issues like the Perth Freight Link and after the preselection process concluded she has assisted our campaign in many ways,” he says.
“From attending events together at ANZAC Day, to speaking at our campaign launch, Melissa has been both publicly and privately giving myself and our campaign team all the support we have asked and more.”
In the wake of an asylum seeker setting himself alight on Nauru and dying from his injuries, Mr Brown says he still supports off-shore processing, but only if it’s done humanely.
“The facilities on Manus Island and Nauru to screen people seeking asylum in our country must be humane and offer people seeking safety exactly that,” he says.
“Recent events have shown that the Liberal government has allowed these facilities to operate more as punitive holding cells than a place where people can seek shelter.
“We have a responsibility as a country to be thorough in our assessment of those who seek asylum and also to make that assessment in a timely, transparent, and humane manner.
“The journey to Australia by boat is dangerous and the loss of over 1200 lives at sea by people attempting to reach our country is unacceptable and our policy needs to discourage smugglers from profiting off the suffering of others.”
Ms Parke declined to comment on her relationship with Mr Brown.
Notre Dame University political lecturer Martin Drum says Ms Parke’s career trajectory suffered because she was too virtuous.
“Melissa Parke hasn’t completely fulfilled her political potential because it was challenging for her to work within the Labor party’s policy settings, especially on asylum seekers, an issue which she was particularly passionate about,” he says.
“Some people might argue that she lacked toughness but arguably she showed a lot of guts in speaking out against party policy on a number of occasions. This probably cost her opportunities for personal promotion.”
by STEPHEN POLLOCK