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Refugees: is the tide turning?

Opinion poll suggests changing mood

Rowanne Couch

Australians no longer think refugees are a threat to Australia's borders but they deserve a fair go, said national human rights group A Just Australia, at the launch of For Those Who Come Across the Seas, a new CD by leading Australian musicians.

"This poll says the national mood has shifted," said A Just Australia National Director Howard Glenn, in response to an independent Saulwick opinion poll released today by JOB futures.

The survey polled 1000 Australian workers asking them for their attitudes towards refugees in Australia.

A majority of those polled (61 per cent) think refugees pose little or no threat to national security and a large majority (71 per cent) think refugees should have access to government funded employment services.

"It's been two years since Tampa, the policy of naval interdiction has stopped boats from arriving and Australians no longer see refugees as a threat. Instead, Australian workers support the idea of a fair go for refugees", Mr Glenn said.

The poll shows that while most (54 per cent) think refugees on temporary visas should return home if it is safe to do so, only about a third (37 per cent) think that the Australian government should be responsible for deciding whether it is safe for those to return. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (55 per cent) is preferred.

"The government's credibility has been damaged by its persistent deception and blame-shifting on refugee matters", Mr Glenn said.

"Australians trust the United Nations' judgement on refugees more than their own government".

The survey also showed Australians now rejected the language of 'queue jumpers' (30 per cent approval), preferring more neutral language such as 'asylum-seekers' (78 per cent approval).


Rowanne Couch is the Research Manager at the University of Sydney's Research Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (RIHSS), and a member of the Evatt Foundation's Executive Committee. A Just Australia is the theme of the campaign co-ordinated by national umbrella group, Australians for Just Refugee Programs Inc. The core mission of A Just Australia is to campaign for changes to government policy on refugee and asylum seekers.


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