Border Protection, the 2001 Australian Election and the Coalition Victory

Ian McAllister*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    54 Citations (Scopus)


    While the issue of refugees and asylum-seekers has preoccupied many European countries, until the November 2001 federal election Australia had largely been immune from the problem. In the election, border protection - combining the Tampa crisis with the 'war against terrorism' - were central electoral issues. Analysis of the 2001 Australian Election Study shows that border protection cost Labor the election. Labor suffered defections to the Democrats and Greens over its position on refugees and asylum-seekers, and defections to the Coalition on terrorism. Negative public attitudes towards asylum-seekers rested on opposition to immigration, but also on a particular dislike of arrivals from the Middle East. By contrast, support for the 'war on terrorism' was based mainly on notions of fairness and democracy. Of the two border protection issues - asylum-seekers and terrorism - terrorism was the more important of the two in shaping the election outcome. If 11 September had occurred but the Tampa crisis had not, the Coalition would in all probability still have won the election.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)445-463
    Number of pages19
    JournalAustralian Journal of Political Science
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003


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