October 15, 2012
The prospect of being processed on Nauru is not enough on its own to stop the arrival of asylum seekers by boat, Chris Bowen admits.
IMMIGRATION Minister Chris Bowen admits an offshore processing centre on Nauru is not enough on its own to deter asylum seekers arriving by boat.
With more than 500 asylum seekers intercepted by Australian authorities since last Friday, the opposition has called on the government to reintroduce the “true, tried and tested” policies of the Howard government.
Mr Bowen says the Gillard government is implementing the measures recommended by an expert panel, including reopening a detention centre on Nauru.
“Nauru by itself is not an effective deterrent,” he told ABC Radio today.
But it was part of a “proper response” that included the Malaysia people-swap deal.
Mr Bowen blamed the continuing arrivals on the lies and spin of people smugglers and the fact that people processed on Nauru last time were resettled in Australia.
Meanwhile, the Opposition insists it has a policy that will halt “full stop” the flow of asylum seeker boats.
“They can be stopped again just as they were in the past,” senior Liberal Eric Abetz told reporters in Canberra on today.
The Opposition’s Senate leader was responding to a surge of arrivals over the weekend, when boats carrying a total of more than 300 people were intercepted by Australian authorities.
“The Coalition has a policy approach which would ensure the boats are stopped full stop,” Senator Abetz said, citing the “true, tried and tested” measures of turning back the boats, offshore processing and reintroduction of temporary protection visas.
“It’s worked in the past. No reason why it can’t work again in the future,” he said.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is in Jakarta where he will have talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on topics including people smuggling.
“What better way to do that (halt people smugglers) than to get Indonesia’s assistance as well,” Senator Abetz said.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says border protection is in chaos as people smugglers are sending boats in record numbers.
“They know Labor’s heart is just not in it,” he said.
Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said people escaping appalling circumstances in Afghanistan or elsewhere and seeking a better life in Australia would not be deterred.
“What we should be doing is putting money into the camps in Indonesia,” she said, adding asylum assessments there could be done quicker.
That would provide safe pathways to Australia and other places, she said.
Senator Abet’zs comments come as Home Affairs minister Jason Clare says Mr Abbott is sending mixed messages about the coalition’s asylum seeker policy.
Mr Clare said some of the finer details of the opposition leader’s policy appeared to have changed since he arrived in Indonesia on Saturday.
“He says in Australia that the core element of his policy is turning back the boats, but then he goes to Indonesia and says he’ll only do things that are in harmony with Indonesia,” Mr Clare told reporters in Sydney.
“He says he’ll work together with Indonesia before he ever announces a policy, but back in Australia he announces he’ll turn back the boats without consulting Indonesia at all.
“He’s now saying he’ll increase aid to Indonesia but after the Queensland floods he said he’d cut (it).
“So there are two Tony Abbotts. Which one can you believe?”
Mr Clare dismissed Mr Abbott’s claim that relations between Indonesia and Australia have soured under the Labor government.
“I was in Indonesia only a few weeks ago … (and) that relationship is in better condition than it’s ever been,” Mr Clare said.