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An Inconvenient Obligation: How the Major Political Parties of Canada and Australia Justify the Restriction of Asylum Seekers

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posted on 2023-03-14, 23:26 authored by Hall, David

This thesis surveys the politics of asylum seeking in Canada and Australia, charting the asylum policies and related parliamentary debates of Jean Chretien's Liberal Government (1993-2005) in Canada and John Howard's Liberal Government (1996-2007) in Australia, as well as those of their respective opposition parties. In doing so, this thesis reveals how the major political parties of Canada and Australia justified the disjunction between what they said about asylum (their rhetoric) and what they did (their policy). In regards to what they said, politicians of the centre-left and centre-right frequently affirmed their commitment to the state's obligations to refugees. Yet, in regards to what they did, the major political parties of Canada and Australia supported policy measures that restricted the entrance of asylum seekers. Given these findings, this thesis proposes to understand the politics of asylum as a conflict of aspirations. On the one hand, the major parties of Canada and Australia held an aspiration to provide asylum to refugees and, on the other, they held an aspiration to regulate the entrance of non-citizens into their national community. The practice of asylum seeking brought these aspirations into conflict because asylum seekers frequently entered nations by irregular means, frustrating a government's capacity to regulate entrance. In trying to reconcile this conflict, the major parties of Canada and Australia subordinated their aspiration to provide asylum, narrowing its scope to those refugees who arrived by regular means. This redefinition of the aspiration to provide asylum has substantial implications for the global refugee regime.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Political Science

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


McMillan, Kate