How will Labor’s new migration detention policy go down with voters? While mandatory detention for unauthorised arrivals is still part of the policy, it won’t apply to children or where possible their families, and will be as brief as possible to conduct necessary checks. Essentially, detention is no longer being used as a deterrent to illegal migration, and is instead, in the words of Immigration Minister Chris Evans, about ‘risk management’.
So far as I can see, there have not been any polls directly asking about mandatory detention since this Catallaxy post in 2006, when there was 50% support for the ‘Pacific solution’.
But two polls in 2007 asked about illegal immigrants. A Lowy Institute poll asked how important controlling illegal immigration was, with 56% saying ‘very important’. However, only 28% of respondents said that they were ‘very worried’ about the issue, with a third saying they were ‘fairly worried’.
The 2007 Australian Election Survey asked respondents to agree or disagree with this proposition:
Immigrants who are here illegally should not be allowed to stay for any reason
56% agreed, about half of them strongly. Less than 20% disagreed.
In the absence of new boat arrivals, I doubt this policy shift will cause Labor too many difficulties. But on my reading they are probably out of step with public opinion, which as I noted a couple of months ago is becoming less supportive of the legal migration program.