27 April 2012

Australian immigration row intensifies as Tony Abbott explains boat policy

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Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott has aggravated the Australian immigration situation by reiterating his intention to turn back asylum seeking boats if he is elected Prime Minister.

Australian immigration

Mr Abbott's repeated intention to turn asylum seeking boats around has not garnered much support.

Speaking at a conservative think tank today in Melbourne, Mr Abbott went so far as to say if he were Prime Minister and could not secure the required parliamentary support to pass his harsher Australian immigration legislation, he would be prepared to force a double dissolution election to resolve the issue.

A double dissolution election can be called by the Governor-General on advice of the Prime Minister to resolve deadlocks in both houses of Australian government.

Mr Abbott's comments came after an asylum seeking boat carrying 50 potential refugees arrived in Australian waters, taking the total to almost 2,000, more than double the same period last year. Australian immigration has been a contentious issue for months with parties deadlocked in negotiations since January.

Mr Abbott has previously said he would make turning asylum seeking boats back his 'core policy' and has restated that intention should he be elected prime minister.

"Within a week of taking office, I would go to Indonesia to renew our cooperation against people-smuggling. I would, of course, politely explain that we take as dim a view of Indonesian boats disgorging illegal arrivals in Australia as they take of Australians importing drugs into Bali," said Mr Abbott.

"I would give new orders to the navy that, where it is safe to do so, under the usual chain of command procedures, based on the advice of commanders on the spot, Indonesian flagged, Indonesian crewed and Indonesian home-ported vessels without lawful reason to be headed to Australia would be turned around and escorted back to Indonesian waters."

The opposition leader's proposals have been met with derision in the past, with trades of insults growing ever more insulting as each side attempts to blame the other for the record numbers of asylum seekers and today's comments have been no different.

"He continues to shamelessly spruik a policy that the experts say is a dud, that our own navy says is dangerous and risks lives, that the UN's refugee chief believes breach the refugee convention and which has found to be a breach of human rights in Europe," said a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

The government's concerns were echoed by Mr Abbott's colleagues in opposition; the Australian Greens said Mr Abbott's comments suggested he could not appreciate the situation.

"Mr Abbott keeps bleating his mantra about turning back boats and reinstating temporary protection visas, despite knowing full well their ramifications," said Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge their Australia visa applications with the Australian Embassy London.

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