June 30, 2012
A further two boats carrying 108 people have been intercepted in Australian waters since Friday night, bringing the total number of illegal boat arrivals for June to 1781 people.
That is a record number of arrivals in a single month, says coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison.
One boat carrying 41 people was picked up northeast of Ashmore Islands in the Timor Sea on Friday evening, and a second carrying 67 passengers was intercepted at Cocos (Keeling) Islands later that night.
Passengers from both boats will be processed on Christmas Island.
Parliament failed to agree on a compromise bill on asylum policy earlier this week, despite about 100 people dying in twin boat disasters in the past 10 days.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday announced the creation of an independent expert group to examine asylum policy and deliver a report on a way forward by the time parliament resumes on August 14.
On Saturday, she criticised Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for declining to pledge support for the panel, despite calling them Australians of ‘‘great distinction’’.
‘‘Mr Abbott can’t on the one hand say he respects these people and then say their views are of no worth,’’ she told reporters in Melbourne.
Mr Morrison repeated the opposition’s calls for Nauru to be reopened on Saturday, saying the government’s inaction was encouraging the illegal boats.
Former solicitor-general of Nauru Kerry Smith-Douglas agreed, saying at the time of the Howard government’s Pacific solution the detainees ‘‘were all happy … they had the freedom of the island’’.
Former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer described himself as the father of the Pacific solution and said the Rudd/Gillard government should be condemned for opening Australia back up to people smugglers.
Mr Downer said Indonesia should not be allowed to get away with leaving the problem to Australia.
‘‘You can make Indonesia part of the solution, not let Indonesia get away with saying this is an Australian problem and we’re having nothing to do with it,’’ he said at the Liberal Party federal council in Melbourne.
Mining tycoon Clive Palmer weighed in, saying a cheaper and safer solution would be to allow asylum seekers to buy their own plane tickets at one tenth the cost of boat travel.
Australian officials could process the legitimate asylum seekers at the airport and send the illegitimate arrivals back on the next flight, he said.
‘‘We can eliminate the people smugglers. We can eliminate the problem. We can eliminate the drownings. We can treat people as human beings,’’ he told journalists at the Liberal Party conference.
The story was originally published here: http://www.theage.com.au/national/two-more-asylum-seeker-boats–record-arrivals-for-june-20120630-219cn.html