This article tries to test the assumption that asylum seeker policy is guided by public opinion. It analyses events in November and December 1977 during the final stages of the federal election campaign. On 20 and 21 November 1977, six boats with Indochinese "boat people" arrived in Darwin, which initially led both the government and the Labor opposition to call for measures to prevent boats from landing in Australia. However, while Labor continued to champion a "stop the boats" policy and opposition leader Gough Whitlam claimed that the "boat people" were jumping the queue, the government adopted a different, unpopular stance and still won the elections.
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