Abbott claims credit for slowing boats
Prime Minister claims asylum seeker boat arrivals are “down by 90 per cent” under his government, but Labor credits their PNG solution for the decline.
PT1M7S http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2vuo3 620 349 October 20, 2013 – 1:39PM
The race to claim credit for the drop in asylum seeker boat arrivals has begun, with both the Coalition and Labor insisting their approach is responsible for slowing the boats.
On Sunday, Labor’s immigration spokesman, Richard Marles, and former immigration minister Tony Burke suggested Labor is behind the recent drop in boat arrivals, not the newly elected Coalition government.
This followed comments from Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Saturday that boat arrivals were down 90 per cent from the peak of arrivals under Labor.
Both Labor and the new Coalition government are claiming credit for a reduction in asylum seeker boat arrivals. Photo: Sharon Tisdale
Since the Coalition was sworn in on September 18, 7 boats carrying about 350 people have arrived and been transferred to immigration authorities, according to the government’s official updates.
”I can say to you with great confidence, my friends, they are stopping. They are stopping and they will be stopped,” Mr Abbott said.
But Mr Marles told Fairfax Media that former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s decision in July to send asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea and pledge not resettle any boat arrivals in Australia had been a ”game changer”.
Mr Marles added that in the month after the policy was announced, there was a 40 per cent reduction in arrivals.
Earlier on Sunday, Mr Burke told Sky News there was no doubt that if the boats were stopped it would be down to Labor’s policy.
”[The Coalition] haven’t changed our policy. They’ve changed the media strategy around it, they’ve changed the secrecy around it, but there is not one part of the policy that we put in place with the regional resettlement arrangements that they’ve shifted,” Mr Burke said.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison dismissed Mr Burke’s comments, arguing the Coalition was cleaning up ”Labor’s mess”.
”Labor is in no position to claim credit for anything on our borders except the unprecedented cost, chaos and failure they presided over in their six years in office including 50,000 illegal boat arrivals and over $ 11 billion in budget blow outs,” he said.
This came as details emerged of a dramatic incident on Manus Island on Friday, that lead to preparations being made for the evacuation of detention centre staff.
In a statement on Sunday afternoon, Mr Morrison said that at 10am on Friday, Australian government staff were advised of a ”disturbance” between PNG police and military personnel outside the detention centre.
Military personnel were seen with rocks and sticks, with the disturbance witnessed by some asylum seekers who were reported to have been ”frightened”.
Centre staff were moved to a building inside the centre and HMAS Choules was placed on standby, but the incident was ”quickly diffused” and within half an hour normal activities had resumed at the centre, Mr Morrison said.
Some reports on Friday suggested that staff had been evacuated and that firearms had been drawn, but Mr Morrison did not elaborate when asked by reporters at the time.
Mr Marles criticised the Coalition for taking two days to provide the statement.
”Transparency should not be a difficult thing,” he said.