Today, the Tampa affair is generally seen through two lenses. It is viewed as a key moment in political history---the masterstroke of Australia's wiliest Prime Minister to secure victory in the 2001 federal election---and it is regarded as a major blemish on our human rights record, a moment when Australia defied international opinion and betrayed its history as a liberal, tolerant nation. While neither view is entirely wrong, both can be misleading. When we view the Tampa through the first lens, as political history, it is easy to forget that the Prime Minister's stand was a high stakes gamble that nearly went awry. To see the Tampa affair through the second lens, as an event out of keeping with Australia's liberal traditions and good international standing overlooks the continuities with past approaches to asylum seekers and underplays the similarities between Australia's actions and the treatment of 'boat people' by other developed nations.