Almost half of Australians support a ban on immigration for Muslims, a poll released Wednesday showed, revealing frustrations with their country's migration policy in the wake of a conservative lawmaker's call to bar entry to followers of Islam.
Forty-nine per cent of people surveyed in an Essential poll said they agreed that Muslims should be banned from the country, while 40 per cent disagreed with the idea.
Of voters who support the coalition government, 60 per cent agreed with the ban, as did 40 per cent of those who support the opposition Labor Party and 34 per cent of backers of the left-wing Greens.
Of those who supported the ban, 41 per cent said they felt Muslims did not integrate into Australian society, while 27 per cent cited "terrorist threat" and 22 per cent said Muslims "did not share our values."
The survey was based on 1,000 respondents.
Last week, Australian far-right parliamentarian, Pauline Hanson of the One Nation party, created a ruckus after calling for a blanket ban on Muslims in her speech to the Senate.
She said Australia was in danger of being swamped by Muslims who had "a culture and ideology incompatible with our own."
Muslims make up just 2.2 per cent of Australia's population according to the 2011 census and their numbers is growing slower than other religions, for example the Hindus.
There was also overwhelming support for Hanson in the poll, with a majority of people saying she speaks for ordinary Australians, and about issues other politicians are too scared to tackle.
The survey was conducted early August but released on Wednesday, because the pollsters wanted to re-confirm the numbers, Peter Lewis, an official at the Essential media said.
"We thought it would be more than the actual Hanson vote, but the actual level of support surprised us," he told dpa. "We repeated and got the exact same result."
Wednesday's poll numbers led several politicians to criticize Hanson and expound on the values of a diverse society.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Australia was an immigrant country and the future relied on people working together.
"Other than our first Australians we all came from somewhere else. I don't want to do is see this country scapegoating minorities for the challenges of the bigger issues," he said.
It was the argument of "crazy fundamentalist Islamic extremists" to say Muslims couldn't support western liberal democracy, he told reporters in Adelaide.
Greens party's immigration spokesman Nick McKim told reporters in Hobart the poll's results is what happens when major parties capitulate to the far-right party.
Australia's race discrimination commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, said Hanson was stoking division and appealing to xenophobia.
"We expect our political representatives to set the tone for our society, not to be targeting particular groups with hostility," he said in Canberra, according to Guardian Australia website.
"We should be forthright in speaking out against political appeals to fear. And we should resist political attempts to divide Australians according to race or religion."