The latest Lowy Poll finds the usual hard-to-interpret results on refugees.
The idea of a queue clearly resonates, as 88% of Lowy’s respondents agreed with the proposition that “unauthorised asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat are jumping the queue and getting in ahead of other asylum seekers wanting to come to Australia”. On the other hand, 43% agreed that “unauthorised asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat are often fleeing war and conflict and Australia should give them a chance to set up a new life in a safe country”.
Lawyers have been prominent in the pro-refugee cause, and the way they look at the world may not always have helped politically. How many times have we heard the argument that Australia’s treatment of refugees breaches our “international obligations”? Only 32% of Lowy’s respondents agreed that “ïnternational treaty obligations mean Australia has to accept refugees regardless of how they arrive here”.
By far the most powerful pro-refugee material I have seen was the SBS series Go Back to Where You Came From, which screened last week. Politically, stories are far more powerful than treaties.