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Australians support multiculturalism, immigration, report says

Australians have a positive attitude to multiculturalism, with 85 percent agreeing that it is good for Australia, and are supportive of immigration levels, according to an updated 2014 Mapping Social Cohesion Report.

But the ‘snap survey’ by Monash University’s Professor Andrew Markus and produced by the Scanlon Foundation identified racism and discrimination as issues Australian society is facing.

Immigration ‘about right’

Australians’ attitude to immigration is among the most supportive in the western world, with 58 percent agreeing that the immigration intake is about right or too low. This compares favourably with American and European surveys that have found 60 to 75 percent disapproval of immigration intakes, Professor Markus said, which tend “to be difficult to sell and to get public support.”

“It’s surprising that it’s so low – the range is 35 to 75 and we’re at the bottom of that range.”

“During times of high unemployment in Australia (in the early 90s), 75 percent of Australians said immigration was too high,” he said, adding reports have consistently found the two have a strong correlation.

Public concern over asylum seekers arriving by boat has also dropped, with only 4 percent seeing it as the major problem facing Australia - down from 12 per cent in 2013. But three-quarters of the population still view them as “queue jumpers” - a similar proportion that is supportive of the government’s humanitarian program.

Non-English speaking Australians had very high levels of negativity towards boat arrivals, Professor Markus said.

"(Australians) support policies that help integrate immigrants. There’s a strong ethic of integration rather than communities remaining separate and distinct”

– Professor Andrew Markus, of Monash University, and author of the Mapping Social Cohesion Report

Racism not the ‘Australian way’

Racism was identified by 11 percent of respondents as the most important problem facing Australia today - an increase from less than one percent in June-July.

"(Australians) support policies that help integrate immigrants. There’s a strong ethic of integration rather than communities remaining separate and distinct,” Professor Markus said.

That’s why 95 percent of respondents from all Australian ethnicities agreed or strongly agreed that maintaining the Australian way of life was important in the modern world.

Discrimination reports on the rise

However, negative views towards Muslims are almost five times higher than negative views towards Christians and three times higher than towards Buddhists, the report said. 

Professor Markus said these negative perceptions are driven by press coverage, events in the Middle East and threats to Australia.

Experience of discrimination has increased to 18 percent, with five percent of respondents experiencing discrimination on a monthly basis. Racial discrimination has risen from historical levels of 10-12 percent to 19 and 18 percent respectively in the last two surveys this year. The question asks participants, ‘Have you experienced discrimination due to your skin colour?’ 

“Whether it has increased or people are more likely to talk about it, we don’t know,” Professor Markus said.

Both Indians and Muslims reported high levels of discrimination, he said.

Still ‘highly cohesive’

“Taking all things into account,” Professor Markus said Australia remains “highly cohesive” by international standards.

"There are high levels that accept diversity, but want integration," he said.

“Most people also have a high level of positive identification with Australia – a fundamental prerequisite for a cohesive society. Looking specifically at third generation Australians, only three per cent of people feel that they don’t belong."

The Point

Australians support multiculturalism and immigration, but some Australians experience discrimination


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