The abandonment of both the aspiration for multiculturalism and the quest for reconciliation had no direct electoral impact. The Government's callous treatment of asylum seekers, fleeing from the Taliban or Saddam Hussein, did.
At first, using Labor's dangerous mandatory detention legacy, the Howard Government imprisoned these refugees for indefinite periods in appalling desert camps. With the arrival of the Tampa at Christmas Island, in late August 2001, it decided on an even more brutal strategy — to use military force to drive all asylum seekers away. To legitimise its cruelty, the Government let the people believe a lie: that the Iraqi refugees had thrown their own children into the ocean. In the long term, mendacity and a carnal desire for power at almost any cost became the trademarks of the Government. In the short term, "border control" hysteria helped Howard win the November 2001 election.
And nothing much has changed in government policy.
Anyway, that's the issue I'm steamed up about. But for analysis without favour, I 've always appreciated Michelle Grattan's work.