Tony Abbott has made Australian immigration a key part of his party's campaign for the federal election.
09 August 2010
Abbott plays Australian immigration card during election campaign
Opposition leader Tony Abbott has announced that Australian immigration will be a key plank in his campaign, in what is expected to be a closely fought election on 21 August.
While launching the coalition campaign in Brisbane, Abbott said people smugglers could be jailed for 10 years or more.
Current Prime Minister and Labor leader Julia Gillard was backed by her predecessor Kevin Rudd in Brisbane.
Abbott was behind Gillard in the polls a month ago but more show votes are split 50/50 between the two, after damaging Labor party leaks and personal attacks on Gillard.
Illegal Australian immigration and the issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat are shaping up as decisive issues in an election that is increasingly appearing likely to produce a hung parliament.
Abbott said a Liberal government would also seek new talks with the Pacific nation of Nauru to reopen a processing centre for asylum seekers.
"We are determined to send a strong message to people smugglers that their cruel and callous trade in human cargo must stop," the opposition leader told cheering Liberal-National Party coalition supporters.
Gillard dismissed suggestions Labor was soft on people smuggling, saying that the government introduced new border protection laws this year including a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment for the most serious people-smuggling offences and up to 10 years in jail for assisting smugglers.
"We've got mandatory jail sentences in the current legislation. We have had a crackdown," she said.
Labor will launch its manifesto on 16 August, five days before the election.