Does the public support ‘legitimate’ refugees coming to Australia?

Pollytics blog reports on some interesting Essential Research polling on refugees. It does a bit more to fill the big gaps in our public opinion knowledge of refugees: there have been many questions about boat arrivals but very few about what the public thinks of the broader refugee program.

From this perspective, the most important proposition put by Essential Research was:

The federal government should be allowing legitimate refugees to enter the country and contribute to our nation.

A plurality (45%) agreed, and a minority (25%) disagreed. A surprisingly high 30% of respondents did not have a view.

Though only 25% oppose refugees generally, 66% agree with turning the boats back. Possible reasons are the prospect of terrorists being on the boats (56% agree) and doubts about whether the refugees currently coming to Australia are genuine refugees (37% think they might not be, though the question was confused with the added concept of processing them immediately).

What we need now are questions about the concept of a ‘queue’ and whether there are particular types of refugees the public does or does not want.

10 November update: A useful summary of polls from Pollytics blog.

Warped HELP priorities

Buried in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook was a change to the FEE-HELP loan system. From July 2010, the ‘administration charge’ (more accurately, debt surcharge) for fee-paying undergraduate students will increase from 20% to 25%. So for example a student borrowing to finance a $10,000 fee would incur a debt of $12,500 rather $12,000.

While I don’t object to the HELP scheme being put on a sounder financial basis – lending money at zero real interest is an expensive business – targeting just this group is highly anomalous.

Since full-fee undergraduate places are being phased out of public universities, this change hits students at TAFEs and private providers. The TAFEs and private ‘feeder colleges’, institutions offering diploma programmes that articulate into bachelor courses, are exactly the kinds of higher education providers a government wanting to improve access to higher education should be encouraging. They give second chances to people who didn’t get the Year 12 scores they needed, or mature age students returning to study after a long absence.

On this year’s estimated FEE-HELP lending to students at TAFEs and feeder colleges, this change will cost them about $1.5 million a year. Continue reading “Warped HELP priorities”