HEAD IN THE SAND: A new poll suggests half of Australians support banning Muslim immigration.
HEAD IN THE SAND: A new poll suggests half of Australians support banning Muslim immigration. Mark Piovesan

'There was a time when we were ashamed of our White Australia Policy'

IT IS rare for an opinion poll to make me want to spend a week in foetal position, but I cannot shake this urge to push my kneecaps into my eye sockets.

There was a time when we were ashamed of our White Australia Policy history; when we could almost proudly say that national disgrace was behind us.

Now we apparently want a watered-down version brought back, this time with Muslims being weeded out rather than just any old brown person.

An Essential Research poll has found 49% of Australians support a ban on Muslim immigration, with only 40% opposing the idea. More than a third of Greens voters support the ban, which sounds ridiculous, and 60% of Liberal voters and 40% of Labor voters want it.

The polling company found the results so surprising they even conducted the survey twice.

But there you go: Apparently spending a decade demonising all Muslims has had an effect on the public psyche.

"This is not a 'basket of deplorables' who sit outside the confines of polite society, this is 49% of the men and women who make up our nation,” Essential Media director Peter Lewis said in a Guardian opinion piece.

"Yes, they are more likely to vote Coalition or 'other' but 40% of Labor voters and one third of Greens agree too. Look around you right now, there are people in your workplace, in your street, on your train, who agree with Hanson.”

Despite all of Malcolm Turnbull's bleating this week about Australia having one of the most "generous humanitarian regimes” in the world, it is just not true.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has done the numbers and found Australia resettled 11,776 people last year. According to the United Nations, Australia was ranked 25th overall, 32nd per capita and 47th relative to our gross domestic product.

If there was ever a good reason, besides human decency, not to ban all people of a single religion from our country, it is geography.

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of any country on the planet and it is our close neighbour.

Flying a giant Muslims Not Welcome flag and weaving that kind of rhetoric into government messages would be disastrous.

An actual military response might be unlikely, but trade would go down the gurgler and all kinds of unnecessary ill feelings would surface.

Senator Pauline Hanson is having a field day with this "told ya so” moment, but fortunately she is not and never will be in government.

The Federal Government is going that way, with allegations Christian refugees already have much better chances of entering our borders.

But while this survey result might bolster the hard right's arguments, it should not be used as an excuse to ignore human rights.

Half of Australians might agree with Pauline Hanson's closed-border policy but only 4.3% voted for her.

We elect politicians and governments because they are supposedly qualified to make good decisions for us.

Sometimes public opinion is not the best measure for international policy. Sometimes it is downright terrible.

It is Malcolm Turnbull's job to make the right choices. And on this issue, relying on a popularity contest falls well short of the mark.

To do anything other than make good choices would be horrendous - and illegal.