The hand of an asylum seeker, whom the Australian Navy allegedly abused. Photo: Amilia RosaTwo-thirds of voters, including more than half of all Coalition supporters, believe claims that the hands of asylum seekers were deliberately burned by border protection authorities should be investigated.
The Abbott government refuses to launch an investigation into the claims, and has criticised media organisations such as the ABC as ”malicious” for reporting them. The result comes from the latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll conducted among 1400 voters across the country from Thursday to Saturday last week.
The ABC has also been strongly supported in the survey. Just three in 10 voters viewed the publicly funded national broadcaster as politically biased, and 59 per cent said it was not.
Asked if they thought allegations that the navy had deliberately burned the hands of asylum seekers warranted an investigation, two-thirds of respondents, or 66 per cent, answered yes.
Even among Liberal and Nationals voters, the proportion in favour of an investigation was safely in a majority at 55 per cent. Those satisfied with the claims being dismissed as hearsay was 31 per cent.
Among ALP supporters the ratio in favour of investigation was 75 per cent – a figure which jumped to 88 per cent among Greens voters.
The government launched an unprecedented attack on the ABC earlier this month for reporting that Indonesian police were investigating allegations that Australian navy personnel forced asylum seekers to hold on to burning hot engine pipes aboard their boat as a form of punishment.
The initial story showed graphic photographs of burnt hands along with the suggestion that the injuries appeared to support the torture claims. The ABC subsequently acknowledged that its report may have lent too much weight to veracity of the torture allegations, but stood by the story from Jakarta correspondent George Roberts.
However, its reportage became a focal point for conservative-led attacks alleging the ABC was left-leaning and culturally biased against the Coalition.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott complained the ABC too often took ”everyone’s side but Australia’s”.
Defence Minister David Johnston attacked ABC management for using ”weasel words” to justify its reporting.
While the Abbott government has railed against the ABC, 67 per cent of respondents said they believed it provided a more balanced presentation of news than commercial television news services. Just 15 per cent trusted commercial television news more.
Even among conservative voters, 53 per cent said the ABC was the more balanced television provider. Among the 31 per cent who felt the ABC was biased, a third called it ”pro-ALP”, 15 per cent said it was ”left-wing”, and another 7 per cent described it as ”anti-Coalition”.
Just 1 per cent branded it ”un-Australian” or ”anti-Australian”.