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Crikey says: why most of us want the boats to stop

Have we seen a coup in Nauru? Guy Rundle makes the case. The government is now selling water back to farmers — what’s going on? Essential: few of us think asylum seeker policies are too tough. The worrying economic news out of China. E-cigarettes: Hollywood fad or addiction saviour? Plus an ode to Louis Nowra’s Cosi.

Trying to second-guess a collective public mood based on opinion polls is a fraught business. But let’s give it a go anyway …

Take the polling released today — exclusive to Crikey — from Essential Research on the asylum seeker issue. To advocates of a more humane approach, the result is shattering: a quarter of the 1000-plus voters polled believe the federal government’s approach is “too soft”. Combine that with the group who believe current policy is “the right approach” (35%), and that’s 60% of the Australian public who back the policy settings.

Why? Well, take a look at the attitudes to those seeking asylum. Asked which of four views best represented their own, the most common response was: “Asylum seekers arriving by boat should be allowed to stay in Australia if they are found to be genuine refugees.” But then asked whether they thought most asylum seekers were genuine refugees, almost half said they weren’t.

So is it any surprise they support tougher enforcement of our borders?

The opinion — apparently popular — that those seeking asylum are, in the main, opportunistic economic migrants rather than humanitarian refugees is simply not true. The vast majority of claims processed are stamped “refugee”.

The misinformation campaign has been devastatingly successful. And it’s shaping public opinion — and public policy — like never before.

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  • 1
    Wynn
    Posted Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Yeah well. That happens when the media sit around admiring the tactics.

  • 2
    Jan Forrester
    Posted Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    No amount of evidence/facts have changed this over more than a decade. Triumph of ideology over evidence. How can we know someone is a genuine refugee until they are assessed? Queues? Most people clearly don’t know the situation on the ground in many countries, ie that you CANNOT claim asylum with the UNHCR whilst in your own country. And the UNHCR does NOT operate in many countries. Clearly ‘public opinion’ has accepted what Bob Carr and the Coalition have told them, ie that all intending asylum seekers are economic refugees. The sheer monetary costs of this exercise, onshore and offshore, must be staggering. As a country we are inwardly focussed and entitlement-obsessed, not a good sign in the long run in a rapidly changing world.

  • 3
    klewso
    Posted Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    You can rarely go wrong, appealing to the self-interest and selfishness of too many people - amplified by a misinformative media, dominated as it is by opinionated Conservatism, more intent with playing partisan politics and validating that sort of egocentricity-in-numbers?

  • 4
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Umm.. are the maths/grammar challenged kiddies still running holiday Crikey or what?
    To wit - “asked whether they thought most asylum seekers were genuine refugees,almost half said they weren’t”.
    “The opinion…that those seeking asylum are, in the main, opportunistic economic migrants”
    “almost half” is NOT “in the main”.
    If the point of the verbiage was to say that those surveyed are pig ignorant and/or bigotted xenophobes then … carry on.

  • 5
    CML
    Posted Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    IMHO there is something with the assessment process when more than 95% of asylum seekers, who self-select Australia to seek asylum, are found to be ‘genuine’ refugees. That just doesn’t make sense. Yes I do believe that SOME of them are economic migrants.
    However, saying that none of them are genuine, is a bridge too far. Let’s have a good look at said assessment process (as opposed to ignoring the whole thing), and deal with the ‘problem’ in a civilised manner.

  • 6
    CML
    Posted Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Sorry: should read “something wrong with….”.

  • 7
    Wynn
    Posted Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    CML, why? How does it not make sense, given what we know about the world today, that most of the people who leave their families and flee their homeland with nothing but the clothes on their backs and risk their lives in a sea crossing, in fact have a good reason for doing so. Makes perfect sense to me.

    It does automatically follow that the rejected 5% are ‘economic migrants’ either. It just means their claims for protection weren’t accepted.

    Your notion that refugees “self-select” Australia indicates a mindset that those seeking asylum are simply likely to be opportunists. They get where they can go.

  • 8
    Wynn
    Posted Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    *sigh* - it does *not* automatically follow.

  • 9
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    almost half means a minority

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