August 17, 2012
AUTHORITIES have intercepted three boats carrying a total of 128 suspected asylum seekers off the West Australian coast in the past 24 hours.
HMAS Maitland intercepted the first boat, carrying 57 passengers, northwest of Christmas Island yesterday afternoon.
HMAS Wollongong intercepted the second boat, carrying 40 passengers, northwest of Christmas Island yesterday evening.
Another 31 passengers were on board the third boat, which was intercepted by HMAS Maitland, also yesterday evening.
Border Protection Command transferred the passengers to Christmas Island, where they will undergo initial security, health and identity checks.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott sayid the latest flood of arrivals shows the Gillard government has not gone far enough in only allowing for offshore processing.
“What we’re seeing here is obviously a determined effort by the people smugglers to test the resolve and the character of this government,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Adelaide today.
“I’ve got to say the resolve and character of this government has been found wanting time and time again on this subject.
“So (Prime Minister) Julia Gillard is being put to the test by the people smugglers.
“I hope she rises to that challenge.”
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare warned that people arriving by boat without a visa after August 13 ran the risk of transfer to a regional processing country.
Urgent government legislation reinstating offshore processing of asylum seekers on Nauru and at Manus Island in Papua New Guinea cleared parliament late on yesterday.
Also yesterday, navy patrol boat ACV Hervey Bay rounded up 63 asylum seekers who managed to reach the Australian territory of the Cocos Islands. They are also to be transferred to Christmas Island.