'Any one of these boat people could be a terrorist for all we know!' Media representations and public perceptions of 'boat people' arrivals in Australia
In April 2009 a boat (named the 'SIEV 36' by the Australian Navy) carrying 49 asylum seekers exploded off the north coast of Australia. Media and public debate about Australia's responsibility to individuals seeking asylum by boat was instantaneous. This paper investigates the media representation of the 'SIEV 36' incident and the public responses to media reports through online news fora. We examined three key questions: 1) Does the media reporting refer back to and support previous policies of the Howard Government? 2) Does the press and public discourse portray asylum arrivals by boat as a risk to Australian society? 3) Are journalists following and applying industry guidelines about the reporting of asylum seeker issues? Our results show that while there is an attempt to provide a balanced account of the issue, there is variation in the degree to which different types of reports follow industry guidelines about the reporting of issues relating to asylum seekers and the use of 'appropriate' language.