The Australian Parliament is not especially known for its decorum, as ideological posturing and pithy potshots so often take precedence over gainful agreement on matters of national importance, but this week we witnessed a change in atmosphere brought forth by the issue of asylum seekers.
Emotions reached boiling point as politicians' humanity was challenged by the proposition of coming to a bipartisan resolution on the Migration Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 tabled by independent MP Rob Oakeshott. It was not to be.
The Bill was supported by the Australian Government, passing in the House of Representatives by a narrow margin of 74 votes for and 72 against, but hit a stalemate in the Senate. It received 29 votes in favour and 39 against after a dynamic seven-hour debate.
The Bill would have granted a refugee-swap deal with Malaysia (which was quashed through the High Court) together with the reopening of a detention centre on Nauru. The Prime Minister had urged the upper house to "examine their conscience" before voting on the Bill.