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Type: Thesis
Title: Asylum seekers and Australian politics, 1996-2007.
Author: Wright, Bette Diane
Issue Date: 2014
School/Discipline: School of History and Politics
Abstract: The thesis is a study of the politics of refugee and asylum seeker policy in Australia, focussing on the John Howard Coalition period 1996-2007. It is argued that the era constituted a pivotal point in time, both politically and historically, when Australia acted contrary to the spirit of its international obligations. The government introduced harsher exclusionary policies which failed to observe some of the basic principles of protection contained within the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 1951 Convention, Relation to the Status of Refugees and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (hereinafter the Convention). The Tampa incident can be seen as a trigger for the introduction of harsher exclusionary policies. From that time those arriving by boat were unable to land on Australian shores. The shift to a new approach saw a flurry of cleverly crafted policies to control, deter and deny unauthorised arrivals and marked an era of change in political culture which found support from many of the voting public. With an election looming in 2001, the government grasped at events for political advantage. The asylum seeker issue, which invoked deeply ingrained public passions of fear, intolerance and exclusion, became policitised to a degree never before experienced in Australia. This thesis will ascertain how exploitation of unauthorised boat arrivals was invoked to achieve a self-serving political agenda, as the government embarked on a deliberate strategy of exclusion of “others”. In the context of a conservative electorate with strong notions of nationality and sovereignty, it will explore the government’s utilisation of the politics of fear. This includes an examination of a compliant media to create a level of moral panic to persuade an anxious public that one group, the smallest of unlawful noncitizens, posed a threat to their nation and way of life. It is concluded that the strategy proved successful, contributing to electoral success, and paving the way to legitimise a plethora of harsher policies. The new approach to asylum seekers, however, was not without specific consequences. This thesis explores how the government compromised its international obligations to the Convention, and seeks to explain why this path was taken and the manner in which it was achieved. It examines policy outcomes in terms of costs and exposes the very high price of the new policy direction.
Advisor: Patrikeeff, Felix
Doyle, Timothy John
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of History and Politics, 2014
Keywords: asylum seekers; australian politics; coalition; refugee
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