Polls show Australians know nothing about protection obligations

Project SafeCom Inc.
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Western Australia 6312
Office (08) 9881-5651
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Web: http://www.safecom.org.au/

Polls show Australians know nothing about protection obligations

Media Release
Monday November 9, 2009 7:00am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"The latest polls such as last week's and this week's Nielsen Poll may be hot news for media commentators and those with political interests, but the main message for the government, coming out loud and clear, is that an overwhelming number of Australians simply miss the connection between boat arrivals and our obligations as a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. This message is simply ignored by politicians, even while the Prime Minister wants a front seat in the United Nations," WA Human Rights group said this morning.

"While it is easy to claim that the Howard government wanted Australians to see asylum seekers breaching our borders as 'invaders' and 'illegals', who wanted to steal our jobs, and as 'hordes' invading Australia, the Rudd government has invested absolutely nothing in an education campaign to tell Australians that we are obliged at all times to give asylum seekers a hearing, that 'illicit arrival' using people smugglers does not affect this obligation, or that absent or false identity papers have no negative bearing on that obligation," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

"Rather than playing a populist tune, resulting in dead-boring mantras about being 'tough and humane', repeated over and over again by the Prime Minister deeply offensive to the electorate and implicitly insulting their intelligence, the Prime Minister, Immigration Minister Chris Evans or Ms Julia Gillard as the Minister for Education, have done absolutely nothing since coming to power with the overwhelming evidence that Australians are unbelievably ill-informed about Australia's obligations under not just the Refugee Convention, but also under other UN Conventions."

"Liking or disliking the level of toughness of the treatment of boat arrivals, for any human rights advocate, and ultimately for the electorate, is an insult - because the level of underpinning knowledge is so abysmally low, that issues of principle that form the foundation for polled opinions are drawn from a complete vacuum in the mind of those who participate in the snap polls."

"Near the end of every school holiday, orders of books from the Project SafeCom website spike markedly, at times dramatically, as hundreds of teachers prepare their lesson plans. The Rudd government could possibly change the nasty outcomes of the polls within five years if every primary school child or high school student becomes fully informed about the United Nations, its Conventions, Australia's role in drafting these Conventions and what they mean for us."

"The Hawke government, the government of Paul Keating, John Howard and Kevin Rudd keep missing the boat on this essential education. Perhaps the last time we received clear information about our national obligations under the Refugee Convention was during the Fraser Government's Indochinese resettlement program. Governments simply ignore a major issue indicated by every poll that deals with asylum seeker issues," Mr Smit concluded.

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

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