||Issue No. 124||15 February 2002|
Chickens Come Home
Unions: Winning the Heartland
Interview: Swan's Song
Corporate: Lessons from Enron
Politics: What We Did Last Summer
History: Solidarity in Song
International: A Tale of Two Cities
Poetry: Nobody Told Me
Review: Labor and the Rings
Satire: Rafter Named Bermudan Of The Year For Tax Purposes
The Locker Room
Week in Review
'International Labour's Year in Review' - A Re-View
Collins Gets Cryptic
Unions' Commit to Battle for Hearts
The research, presented to a NSW Labor Council workplace harmony seminar this week, shows the majority of Australians, from all works of life, back current hard-line refugee policies.
The survey of 708 voters, commissioned by the Labor Council, found:
- 63 percent believe Howard had handled the asylum seeker issue well or very well. While non-unionists were more supportive of Howard (67 per cent) a majority (58 per cent) of union members also supported the stand.
- Higher income earners (above $70,000) were less likely to support the Prime Minister (54 per cent) compared with 71 percent of voters earning under $50,000.
But there was some room for optimism that people were open to a more compassionate stance.
- While there was strong agreement for emotive propositions such as: "If people want to come to Australia because they are fearful of being persecuted in their own country, they should go through the proper channels of face mandatory detention" (80 percent)
- and "any softening of Australia's current policy would lead to a massive influx of illegal immigrants and would be unfair to those who are waiting their rightful turn in the queue" (77 percent),
- a majority of respondents accepted the proposition that "seeking asylum in Australia or a country other than one's own is not illegal, nor is it queue jumping. It is a fundamental right of any person experiencing persecution in their country of origin.(58 percent of union members agreed).
Challenge Not to be Shirked
Accepting the statistics showed there was a lot of work to do in winning over union members, Labor Council secretary John Robertson says it's a challenge the labour movement cannot afford to shirk.
Robertson, who's taken a leading role in the Labor for Refugees group, says the only way to fight the issue is to foster understanding and compassion for the plight of refugees at a workplace level.
"The reality is that support for the Prime Minister on this issue is so high because there has not been a strong counter-argument presented," Robertson says.
"Unfolding events show the extent to which Howard used propaganda to shape the debate for his own political advantage. Our challenge is to present a different story to our membership."
Plan for Action
Participants at the seminar came up with proposals to take the issue onto work sites, including:
- workplace visits by refugees
- producing an information kit for delegates and activists
- developing a Labor Council statement of commitment to diversity
- winning senior union officials to the campaign
The proposals will be formally considered by the Labor Council executive next week.
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