The paper presents a comparative analysis of the refugee and asylum seeker issue in the Australian region focusing on Australia and Malaysia where the arrival of displaced people from neighbouring countries has been increasing and is of increasing concern and contention in the region. The United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed concern over the 10.6 million displaced people being hosted in the Asia and the Pacific region representing almost 30 percent of the global refugee population (http://www.unhcr.org/). Because of similar border protection and nation-building aspirations, the ‘Malaysia Solution’ was proposed in place of the ‘Pacific Solution’ by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in a diplomatic agreement with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. This soft diplomatic arrangement did not materialise. Unlike Australia, Malaysia has not ratified the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees and the 1967 Protocol and therefore is not obliged to protect those coming to its shores in search of political asylum (Kassim, 2009). Like Malaysia, Australia appears to ignore international human rights laws, putting all asylum seekers in mandatory detention (Hundson-Rodd, 2009). Thus, thousands of ‘boat people’ in Australia and Malaysia remain in stateless limbo (World Refugee Survey, 2008). First, the paper examines the policies, practices and approaches taken by Australia and Malaysia in managing refugees and asylum seekers. Second, because of the central role of media in society, the paper presents a qualitative textual analysis of the Australian and Malaysian media coverage of the issue, identifying the extent to which mediated representations reflect reality. Findings offer a deconstruction of policies and practices and a critique of media’s role, reflecting the various ways in which the issue has been played out and prioritised. While the issue appears a national politicised media agenda in Australia, it tends to take on a local, socio-cultural activist approach in the Malaysian context.
2013 University Research Conference: Communicate, Collaborate, Connect - Research on the Rise, Sunshine Coast, Australia 1-5 July 2013