Policy outcry as more asylum seekers arrive by boat

By Matt Johnston, Herald Sun

MORE than 800 asylum seekers have arrived in boats since the Government signed its people swap deal with Malaysia in July.

The plan, which has fallen over, would have resulted in up to 800 asylum seekers being sent to Malaysia in return for Australia settling 4000 confirmed refugees.

Three boats sailed into Australian waters this weekend holding a total of almost 140 people.

The Government has warned about 600 asylum seekers would come by boat every month while its Malaysia solution, which was scuttled by a High Court decision in August, remains off-limits.

Since the High Court ruling, the Government has been unable to get enough support in Parliament to change migration laws and resurrect the policy.

It blames Tony Abbott for the situation, saying the Opposition Leader should have backed law changes to allow offshore processing, including in Malaysia.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor yesterday said Mr Abbott “has sought to trash border protection in this country”.

He said the Government would work with countries in Asia to try to stamp out people smuggling while it was unable to implement its Malaysia policy.

“Our effort to have the most effective deterrent is being frustrated by the Leader of the Opposition, who is the best friend that people smugglers have ever had,” he said.

Mr Abbott said the Government and Prime Minister Julia Gillard were desperate to blame others for the issue, and had lost control of Australia’s borders.

“It’s interesting when Julia Gillard was in opposition she blamed the government for the boats. Now that she’s in government she blames the Opposition,” he said.

“It is her responsibility. She needs to put policies in place that will actually stop the boats.”

The Government will stick to onshore processing of asylum seekers while its policy is shelved.

More bridging visas will be used to allow asylum seekers to live in the community, like many who arrive by plane.

Senior Labor Minister Anthony Albanese told Sky News this was appropriate and would enable the Government to discuss the asylum seeker issue without “some of the hysteria that has characterised this debate”.