Amnesty releases the results of a poll on the subject of asylum seekers, which reveal that:

  • a clear majority of Australians think asylum seekers should be treated equally regardless of the method of their arrival; and
  • Australians are stunningly poorly-informed on the subject of “boat people” and massively overestimate their impact:

    On average, Australians believe that about 60 per cent of asylum seekers come to Australia by boat. More than a third of Australians believe that over 80 per cent of asylum seekers arrive by boat. In fact, only 3.4 per cent of people who sought asylum in Australia in 2008 arrived by boat – the other 96.6 per cent arrived by plane.

While the first point is good to hear, the second is a massive tick for the effectiveness of the anti-refugee campaign run by various newspaper and radio polemicists. Clearly, they’ve done a spectacular job in training Australians to think they’re being “invaded” by shabby hordes from the north, and inducing us to support government policies that both discriminate against the most desperate refugees and which disproportionately cost the community far more than it would support if it really understood the issue. What help they’ve given hard-hearted politicians. What harm they’ve done the victims of those policies.

So – a tick for the hacks’ influence and ability, but a massive indictment on their honesty. I hope they can temper their pride at this confirmation of the power they wield with at least a little shame at what they’ve chosen to do with it.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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