Asylum-seeker issue now in mainstream

This is the election that has mainstreamed the asylum seeker issue as more than an issue for the intellectual left and the working class right.

It first made its appearance as a vote changer in 2001 when the MV Tampa hove over the horizon and was commandeered by the refugees it rescued.

The Howard government’s response played well with the working class conservatives who were the bedrock of One Nation, and saw them desert Hanson to become “Howard Battlers”.

It also more or less permanently alienated the inner-city intellectual classes from Howard – dismissed as “Doctor’s Wives” – ultimately seeing him lose his own metropolitan seat of Bennelong 6 years later.

But it was not an issue that troubled the mainstream.

Indeed, it disappeared for a while, presumably because the boats stopped coming.

In 2010 it reappeared, but still as an issue for the working class conservative, and the left-wing intellectuals.

In 2013 it is really not one issue but many, and each of these issues has a different name.

If you talk about “asylum seekers”, then for you it is a humanitarian issue and you are most likely to be a Green or ALP voter. While you are also highly likely to be concerned about the environment and climate change, as well as health and education, this is a totemic issue that shows you have a holistic and caring approach to politics and the world.

“Refugees” is the favoured term in the middle. Rather than being concerned about climate change you are concerned about the carbon tax. You are also concerned about national security, lack of infrastructure and the economy and likely to vote for parties like Katter, Palmer, Christian Democrats and Family First. While ideals are important, practicalities loom larger.

Your preference between Liberal and Labor is also likely to be undecided and you are less a critic of government practice, than a worrier about your own situation. Rather than a defining issue, irregular arrivals is one of many on the political laundry list.

Your major concern is not humanitarian but the cohesion of your life, which means a stable society and borders.

“Boat people” is more closely related to voting Liberal, and these voters are moving from being passively concerned about large issues like the economy, to apportioning blame for over-spending and mismanagement. They’re not thinking about humanitarian issues, or even so much border security, but about competence and good governance.

Which comes to the real hard core Liberal voter who freely describes irregular arrivals as “illegal”. To general concerns about the economy these people add strong concern about the amount of government debt, the interests of business, and the cost of handling “illegals”.

Using the term “illegal” is almost an act of defiance against the humanitarians on the other end of the spectrum who deny this is a legitimate term.

Politicians seek to bridge between all four constituencies, justifying hardline policy through humanitarian intent, claiming all they want to do is to stop people drowning at sea.

Only three respondents mentioned drowning or sinking, and one of these was an ALP voter who thought this was a good thing.

This election the whole country is taking a side on irregular arrivals.

Election Issue Thumb 13 08 18


Asylum Seekers

Treatment of asylum seekers, environmental accountability (carbon tax, CSG, etc) our social development (more for the many and not just for the privileged few).

Education , health and the environment, but above all a humane asylum seeker change in policy

The inhumane treatment of asylum seekers as though they are merely a commodity ro be dismissed rather than desperate humans fleeing persecution and possible death.

i cannot decide between climate change, education and asylum seekers


While I do not believe that the number of refugees coming to australia is an issue in itself, the way both major parties have decided to respond ie cruelly and cynically, has turned it into an ethical issue that I am unable to ignore. I am also once rend about Australa's economic direction over the next few years.

There are 2 issues that would strongly affect the way I vote. I want to see someone like Helen Clark change the way refugees are spoken of and people educated about the vast sums of taxpayers money spent on torturing people who seek refuge.

Boat people

Add the profligate spending of labour and their refusal to use temporary protection visas... the key to the Howard successful boat denying strategy.

illegal boat arrivals, the budget, hospitals, schools roads and mostly a government that is totally useless and unable to govern, the mess is so bad that I fear the libs will have a hard time turning it around but with time I feel they will

Same, with the subheadings being: national debt, boat people, unemployment (which is going to spiral), health and education.

To many boat people (Muslims) allowed into Australia without proper security checks; PNG and Nauru solution will not work

Illegal boat arrivals, the budget, hospitals, schools roads and mostly a government that is totally useless and unable to govern, the mess is so bad that I fear the libs will have a hard time turning it around but with time I feel they will.

Rising cost of living, invasion of our shores by illegal boat people, law and order is a joke - judges not working with police to jail criminals and child molesters/killers.

Illegal immigrants

Huge deficit to be fixed in coming years; closely followed by stopping illegal immigrants.

illegal immigrants, their drowning deaths, their legal fees and detention, and the billions it's costing us thanks to the ruddy ALP

Get the spending under control.
Stop the illegal imagrants and start taking the proccessed refugies.


Share this article on your favourite social bookmarking sites:
Digg! Reddit!! Google! Facebook! StumbleUpon! Twitter!


0 #1 MrJohn Barr 2013-10-01 10:32
Didn't you get one of your minions to check this before pressing "Enter" Graham. Otherwise, a damm good article.