Today’s Nielsen poll revealed some interesting information about Australian attitudes to asylum seekers, and the hard-line off-shore processing policies pushed by both major parties.
According to the poll, 53% of us believe that boat arrivals should be processed in Australia, not off-shore. This puts Abbott and Gillard out of step with the majority of the electorate as they both pursue their expulsion plans, either to Malaysia or Nauru.
It could be speculated that the responsibility for this unexpected surge of public compassion towards boat arrivals lies with Gillard’s Malaysia solution. While many of us could apparently come at Nauru, Malaysia is a step too far, given the uncertainty asylum seekers will face there. The concept of expelling children to that country is also highly unpalatable, and likely to be contested by the UNHCR.
There’s a nice irony in imagining that Gillard might actually have done herself no favours with her Malaysia deal, when the government’s intention was to win support from an Australian public they perceived as demanding they demonstrate increasing toughness in their treatment of boat arrivals.
Perhaps instead they’ve managed to sicken enough of us with their conservative, bullying rhetoric, and the tide has begun to turn. One can only hope. The sight of federal police armed to the teeth, in training on Christmas Island to push boat arrivals onto planes bound for Malaysia, was not edifying. All this violence and threat against a handful of unarmed people asking for asylum?
Maybe we just didn’t need to see Julia chucking a Tampa.
At this stage, there’s little the government can do, having committed to the Malaysia solution and facing a court battle next week. This poll, like so many others recently, can’t be encouraging.
60% of us also believe that those found to be refugees should be granted permanent protection in Australia.
With so many big issues facing us, one has to wonder yet again what the government stands to gain with its theatrics over boat arrivals, especially when asylum seekers arriving by plane are treated quite differently. There’s no legal justification for this difference, and there’s no rational necessity for it either. It’s politics.
This latest poll casts concrete doubt on the government’s judgement in this matter. They’ve outdone the Howard government in their ferocity towards boat arrivals, and it just might be starting to backfire, particularly as the boats aren’t stopping.
The answer is so simple. Initial detention for health and identity checks, release into the community while claims are assessed, re-settlement or return if the claims aren’t substantiated. It’s not rocket science. It’s humane, it’s responsible, it’s common sense, it’s legal. Why, then, do Abbott and Gillard have to make it so hard?
- Voters say ‘no’ to PM’s asylum deal (theage.com.au)
- Australia needs a better way to process asylum seekers (theage.com.au)
- Half-baked (bbc.co.uk)