Melbourne, Jun 5, 2012 (PTI)

The Australian government might have overturned a ban on uranium sale to India but a majority of people in the country still appear opposed to the idea of selling the mineral to New Delhi.

In a new survey, a majority of Australians were found to be against the recent Labor party decision of lifting ban on Uranium sale to India with 61 per cent opposing it.

“More than 60 per cent of Australians say they are against ‘Australia selling uranium to India’, with 39 per cent saying they are ‘strongly against’,” according to the eight annual Lowy Institute poll 2012.

In December 2011, the Australian Labor Party had overturned a ban on the sale of uranium to India following a heated national conference debate.

The results were published by the Lowy institute Poll after a nationally representative opinion survey of 1,005 Australian adults was done.

Key issues covered in the poll included uranium sale to India, relations with Fiji, the Bali bombings, climate change, the war in Afghanistan, migration, US Presidential elections, US military bases, and attitudes towards democracy and human rights.

The poll also included questions of migration, a perennially controversial topic.
It revealed that Australians recognised the need for short-term migration to address worker shortages with 62 per cent saying they were in favour of ‘the government allowing in extra workers from foreign countries’ when ‘there are shortages of workers in Australia and companies in Australia cannot find enough skilled workers’.

However, it was found that there was major oppositiion against large-scale foreign investment.
The poll also included several new questions about Australia’s image and engagement with the neighbourhood.

It was found that Australians believe it was important to be liked by neighbours, with 68 per cent saying it was ‘very important’ for ‘Australia to be seen in a positive light by people from countries in  region’, with another 26 per cent saying it is ‘somewhat important’.

They also supported government efforts to communicate with countries in the region.
Over 81 per cent said they were in favour of ‘the Australian government funding broadcast services or other programmes to communicate with people from countries in our region, with the aim of improving relations with those countries’, with 38 per cent saying they are ‘strongly in favour’.

In the context of Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, the poll presented Australians with six possible responses from the Australian government ‘as the Asian region grows and becomes more significant’.

There is strongest support for doing more to get ‘Australia included in Asian political forums’ with 37 per cent saying it was ‘very important’.

Only 24 per cent said the government should ‘increase the number of Australian diplomats sent to Asia, but there was less support for doing ‘more to attract Asian investment into Australia’ at 16 per cent or increasing ‘the number of migrants Australia accepts from Asia’ at 13 per cent.

In an open-ended question, on a query of which country ‘will be Australia’s most important security partner over the next 10 years’, 74 per cent of Australians picked the US.
Interestingly, 10 per cent said it will be China, the survey said.

The institute’s executive director, Michael Wesley, said the poll gives some indication of what Australians might think about the plan, and shows many people are worried about foreigners buying Australian assets.

“We found that 81 per cent of people we asked are against foreign companies buying Australian farmland,” Wesley said.

“Australians continue to be worried about the amount of Chinese investment the government is allowing in – 56 per cent think the government’s allowing too much Chinese investment into Australia.

“I think people are well aware that some of the big projects in Australian history like the Snowy Mountains scheme were built using skilled labour, because the labour wasn’t available from within the Australian population.

“So they’re aware that our prosperity and our progress as a nation does depend on allowing in people with the skills that we need.

“The survey has also found support for Australia’s alliance with the United States has reached its highest level since the poll began in 2005. But support for tough action on climate change has continued to fall, with 63 per cent of respondents opposed to the government’s carbon tax”.