Australia One in three think federal government should do more to bring overseas Australians back home: Lowy poll
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A new poll shows only one in three voters believe the federal government should do more to help stranded Australians return home during the coronavirus pandemic, while an overwhelming majority are happy with how Australia has tackled the health crisis so far.
The poll of more than 2,200 Australians – which was commissioned by the Lowy Institute — also shows that a growing number of Australians believe China has done a good job of reining in the virus.
The federal government has faced fierce criticism from Labor and many expatriates, who have accused it of not moving fast enough to return stranded Australians home during the pandemic.
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More than 35,000 Australians who say they wish to come home remain stuck in foreign nations.
Almost 10,000 of those people are in India, and some of them responded with fury when the federal government suspended flights from there last week in the wake of a catastrophic COVID-19 surge.
and heavy fines if they flee the COVID-ravaged country to return home.
The anger of some isn't shared by most Australians however.
Fifty-nine per cent of people polled said the government had given an appropriate amount of support to Australians overseas, with only 33 per cent saying it had not done enough. Seven per cent said the government had actually done too much to help those stranded.
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The Lowy Institute's Natasha Kassam said while the poll was conducted before the COVID-19 crisis engulfed India, most Australians still seemed comfortable with the government's policies.
There was also extraordinarily strong support for Australia's broader efforts to manage the pandemic.
Sixty-five per cent of those polled said Australia had done "very well" tackling the pandemic, up from 43 per cent last year. A further 30 per cent said Australia had simply done "fairly well."
Ms Kassam said the vast majority of Australians felt that governments had handled the crisis competently, which had restored flagging levels of trust in public institutions.
"Australian support for democracy has gone up in the past year, trust in Australian government has gone up in the past year, and Australians have been very willing to sacrifice personal freedoms in the name of this public health threat," she said.
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Border closure fatigue
The Lowy poll also showed some sharp splits over the government's decision to keep Australia's borders closed.
While 41 per cent of respondents backed the current policy — which only allows Australians to leave the country with a special exemption — 40 per cent said vaccinated Australians should be able to leave.
"I think for most of last year Australians were willing to sacrifice some of those personal freedoms, were willing to stay at home and do as they were told, in the name of the greater good," Ms Kassam said.
"But now the country has been closed for 15 months – and Australia is one of the only countries in the world where you cannot leave freely – I do wonder if this is beginning to wear thin."
Attitudes towards the performance of other countries haven't shifted much from last year's poll. Even though the United States has successfully rolled out vaccines to vast swathes of its population, only seven per cent of Australians said the country had handled COVID-19 "fairly well."
68 per cent said the US had handled the pandemic "very badly" while 24 per cent said it had done "fairly badly."
In contrast, 45 per cent of Australians said China had done "very well" or "fairly well" tackling the pandemic, up from 31 per cent in 2020.
There were also extremely high levels of support for federal government efforts to roll out vaccines to developing countries in the region.
83 per cent of those polled said Australia should provide financial support to Pacific Island countries to help them secure COVID-19 vaccines, while 60 per cent said Australia should provide support to South-East Asian countries.
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