Monday, 12 June 2006.

New poll shows overwhelming opposition to changing immigration law to improve relations with Indonesia

The Newspoll of 1200 people commissioned by businessman Ian Melrose, shows 74% of respondents would prefer to keep the current immigration laws, with only 15% supporting a change in the laws in order to improve relations with Indonesia. The Newspoll conducted on 26-28 May asked:

Recently the Indonesian Government expressed its concern at Australia’s decision to grant visas to 42 West Papuan asylum seekers and recalled its ambassador in protest. Do you think the Australian Government should change its immigration policies in order to improve its relations with Indonesia or keep the policies as they are?

A coalition of refugee, legal, advocacy and church groups welcomed the release of the poll that they say bolsters the campaign against the Government’s controversial new migration legislation.

The new legislation is set to be debated in parliament this week. It was introduced after 43 West Papuan asylum seekers were granted protection visas and will require that all arrivals by boat be processed at offshore detention centres like Nauru.

“While good relations with Indonesia are important, the Australian people know that it is immoral to change our laws just to improve relations with Indoneisa. The new laws discriminate against those who arrive by boat like those coming from West Papua and PNG. Usual counselling, support and legal advice will be abolished. Sending asylum seekers to Nauru is barbaric and counter to the principles of international law Australia has signed up to,” Justice John Dowd, International Commission of Jurists, said today in Sydney.

“The proposed law addresses all unauthorised boat people who arrive in Australia and seek Australia’s protection. Under the proposed law, women and children may again be put in detention for an unspecified period of time and in circumstances potentially harmful to their mental and/or physical health. Australia has a moral and ethical responsibility to welcome refugees as well as refugee claimants,” Rev Monsignor John Murphy, Director, Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, said.

“This Government often speaks of the values they want the Australian community to live by. This poll shows Australians want our Government to live by those same values of respect, compassion and a fair-go. We challenge MPs to assess these laws by those fundamental Australian values, and tell us how this law lives up to them,” Kate Gauthier, National Coordinator, A Just Australia, said.

“Last year, as a nation we decided no child fleeing persecution should be made to suffer in detention. The Migration Act was amended to allow children and their families to live in 'community detention' while their asylum claims are processed. For the Government to be going back on this decision is a tragedy,” Brett Solomon Executive Director, Getup, said.

Ben Oquist 0419 704095, Brett Solomon 0407419320, Kate Gauthier 0414 876139