Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Australia's new rejectionist policy lifts vote for PM's party

KEVIN Rudd's tough new stance on asylum seekers has lifted Labor's ratings to its highest level since Julia Gillard's proposal for regional processing in East Timor during the 2010 election.

Mr Rudd announced on Friday that asylum seekers arriving by boat would not be settled in Australia.

Detainees who are found to be refugees could be permanently settled in PNG, while those found not to be refugees could be detained in PNG, returned home if possible or be sent to a third country.

The news has lifted Labor's standings, with the latest Newspoll, in The Australian newspaper on Tuesday, showing support for Labor rose six percentage points to 26 per cent, while the Coalition's dropped 14 points to 33 per cent, compared with February results.

The results were greatest in Sydney's western suburbs where there was a three percentage point rise among ALP voters who believe Labor is best able to handle the issue of asylum seekers.

There was a rise in coalition supporters who now favour the ALP, up from four per cent to seven per cent.

Labor supporters who believed the coalition was best able to handle the task also fell massively from 21 to five per cent.

"Coalition supporters remain overwhelmingly supportive of Tony Abbott's approach to asylum-seekers, with 71 per cent nominating the opposition as the best to handle the issue, down from 80 in February," The Australian said.

"Labor's 26 per cent is the highest in Newspoll surveys since August 2010 when it hit 29 per cent after Ms Gillard announced a plan to establish a regional asylum-seeker processing centre in Dili."


Australia:  'Creepy' photos of distraught asylum seekers?

It is just such photos that deter illegals

The Department of Immigration has published photographs of distraught asylum seekers heading for Papua New Guinea, prompting anger on social media, as a missing asylum seeker boat has been found on its way to Christmas Island.

The asylum seekers pictured were on the first boat - carrying 81 mostly Iranian nationals - to arrive in Australia after the new policy of processing and resettling asylum seekers on PNG took effect.

According to the Immigration Department, the group of asylum seekers were told of the new deal between Australia and PNG at North West Point Immigration Detention Centre at Christmas Island.

In a video of the scene at Christmas Island, the woman with her head in her hands in the photo can be seen wiping her eyes.

Immigration Department acting regional manager Steven Karras said the group listened calmly to the message.  "It was apparent to me that they did understand what this message meant," he said.

"I'm sure they’re now thinking about whether it was wise to come in the first place. And I think in fact over the coming days … they will start to contemplate very seriously whether in fact returning home is a better option."

The move to publish the photographs was quickly questioned on Twitter. Asylum seeker NGO, House of Welcome, called the photos "creepy" and "upsetting".

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the pictures were shameful.

Immigration Department spokesman Sandi Logan said that the department believed the images were "entirely appropriate".

Mr Logan said the department had taken the necessary steps to protect the identity of the asylum seekers involved.

"The opportunity to demonstrate graphically to people considering getting on the next boat is an absolutely vital opportunity for us," he told Fairfax Media.

Mr Logan said that the department regularly documented transfers and made them public, as it thought it was important to be "transparent in the way that we operate".

Mr Logan also said the images helped with the "believability factor" -  getting the message of Australia's changed policy out to people smugglers and facilitators, those considering getting on a boat and disapora communities.  "This is about saving lives at sea," he said.

The woman who is pictured with her head in her hands had been briefed within the previous hour about the transfer to PNG and was waiting for initial checks, Mr Logan said.

It is not known if she was upset because of the PNG transfer or another reason.


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