BY KERRYN WILLIAMS
CANBERRA On August 11 the Canberra Times printed dramatically incorrect results from a Telepoll on attitudes to refugees. The report claimed that 18% of respondents voted yes and 71% no to the question, "Should children be freed from the detention camps holding asylum seekers?"
This result came as a significant shock to many, given the widespread public opposition in Canberra to the federal government's policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers. In addition, the total votes didn't add up to 100%, even though the only options given were to vote "yes" or "no".
When inquiries revealed that the wrong poll results had been printed, the Canberra Times was forced to print a retraction. The actual question asked was "Should children be held in detention camps holding asylum seekers?" The real results were that 18% voted yes and 82% voted no.
Prior to the printing of the correction, Liberal member of the ACT Legislative Assembly Greg Cornwell used the false poll results to argue against the Legislative Assembly's current hosting of a refugee display. The display, including artwork from ACT school students and information on the refugee issue, was recently forced out of the Tuggeranong library.
Cornwell argued in the August 20 Canberra Times that the display "isn't in the interests of community harmony". He cited the false poll results to indicate a lack of support from the Canberra public for the display.
The Canberra Times "correction" box printed on August 20 was less than 7cm x 4cm, far smaller than the original report.
From Green Left Weekly, August 28, 2002.
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