Liberal Democracy's Asylum Seeker Paradox: A Case Study of Australian Labor Party's Policies on Offshore Detention

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Virginia Tech


This thesis asks why the Australian Labor Party was opposed to the policy of offshore detention for unauthorized maritime arrivals from 2002 to 2008, when they ended it, only to bring it back a few years later in 2011? The Australian Labor Party, the major left-wing party in Australia, campaigned against offshore detention as being antithetical to Australia's liberal values, which proclaimed human rights as an Australian value. After winning the 2007 federal election the policy of offshore detention was ended. By 2009, the Australian Labor Party changed its position on the issue going into the 2010 federal election. In 2011, the Australian Labor Party announced that it was looking to bring back offshore detention. The explanation for this change I find is that the Australian Labor Party wanted to hold political power. As the minority party the Australian Labor Party used the policy of offshore detention for unauthorized maritime arrivals to attack the Liberal-National Coalition-controlled government as being a financial waste and cruelly inhumane. After ending the policy, the rates of unauthorized maritime arrivals increased drastically, creating pressure on the Australian Labor Party to find a solution or risk losing control of the Australian government, which it did in 2011.



asylum seekers, Australia, offshore detention