November 19, 2013
The military commander in charge of the operation to stop asylum seeker boats has revealed that not one boat has been purchased under the Government’s controversial boat ‘buy-back’ policy because Indonesia does not support the idea.
Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell has been questioned at a Senate Estimates committee hearing this afternoon.
He told Senators that no fishing boats in Indonesia have been bought.
“All those measures remain available at this stage,” he said.
“But these measures, the one you’re referring to, isn’t one the Indonesian government wishes to see being applied right now as part of our cooperative activities – which we respect.”
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young pressed the commander, asking: “So it hasn’t been undertaken?”
“It’s not one that we are working with the Indonesian government cooperatively on right now,” Lieutenant-General Campbell responded.
During the election campaign, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, pledged a “capped boat buy-back scheme” to buy “decrepit and dangerously unsafe” fishing boats in Indonesia.
It was to be part of a $20 million program to “enlist Indonesian villages” to support Australian efforts to stop the people smugglers.
Earlier today in Parliament both the Minister and the Prime Minister deflected Opposition questions about the status of the boat buy-back policy.
“We stand by all our policies,” Mr Abbott said.
“We stand by all of them because, Madam Speaker, they are working. The boats have not entirely stopped but they are stopping.
“They are down almost 80 per cent in the first two months of this Government, compared to the last two months of the former government.”
Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Protection, Senator Michaelia Cash, told the committee that the “policy is part of a suite of measures that are available to this government if and when we require them”.
“At this point in time … we are not looking to purchase the boats, however the option does remain open to us,” she said.
Earlier Mr Morrison defied a Senate order to release more information about asylum seeker operations, citing “national security” and the “protection of public safety”.