Gillard’s goal: wreck people smugglers


The opposition leader’s claim the Howard government actively turned boats back was wrong, she said.

Just seven boats were turned back by the Howard government and the last was turned back in November 2003, Ms Gillard said.

Only seven boats were turned back under the Howard government, and none were turned back after 2003, because of the realities of the situation, Ms Gillard said.

‘‘To avoid being turned around, boats are sabotaged, raising safety of life at sea concerns for Australian customs and border protection and defence personnel as well as the asylum seekers on board,’’ she said.

‘‘The second practical reality is that there is nowhere to turn the boats back to.‘‘Indonesia has made it clear that it will not accept such returned boats.’’

Ms Gillard says the division on the issue is creating an impasse.

‘‘If you are hard headed you’re dismissed as hard hearted, if you are open hearted you’re marginalised as supporting open borders,’’ she said.

‘‘I say to those engaged in this type of rhetoric, stop selling our national character short, we are better than this, we are much better than this.’’

She said the focal strategy of turning boats back would become an operation of rescuing children from the water. So the policy would not work.

She said the boats must be stopped before they reached our shore line, from their point of origin.

Like all global challenges this one could only be tackled by working together. She said Australia was working with its regional neighbours and the UNHCR to deal with the problem.

 MS Gillard said talks were already under way with East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta to establish a processing centre for asylum seekers.

Ms Gillard has commissioned a report on “sustainable Australia”, acknowledging that each region has different population needs.

She said the population debate should not be constrained by political correctness.

‘‘It would be to ensure that arriving by boat does not give anybody an advantage in the likelihood that they would end up settling in Australia or other countries in the region,’’ she said.

Ms Gillard said she had also spoken to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key about the possibility of a regional processing centre for asylum seekers.

‘‘John said to me that he would be open to considering this initiative constructively,’’ she said.

‘‘East Timor and New Zealand are vital countries in this initiative, as they are already signatories to the refugee convention.

‘‘And New Zealand, like Australia, is a key resettlement country.’’

Ms Gillard said she canvassed the idea with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres as well.

Opposition unveils ‘ no documents, no entry’ policy

Asylum seekers who deliberately discard their passports before arriving in Australia will be turned away under a coalition government.

The opposition today announced two new prongs to its border protection policy.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said a coalition government would not tolerate asylum seekers who throw out their documentation.

“If someone wants to do that and seek to take advantage of Australia’s generosity, then we won’t be giving them the green light,” he told ABC Radio today.

“What we will be doing is making them come back and provide even greater reasons as to why their case should be accepted.”

The coalition would also seek to bring more “objectivity” to the refugee approval process by taking the decision away from immigration officers on Christmas Island, and giving it to the minister, Mr Morrison said.

“It’s not just no decisions that can be challenged, but also yes decisions if the minister believes that there is a need to do that,” he said.

Asylum seeker rhetoric ‘alarmist’: lawyer

High-profile human rights lawyer Julian Burnside told Sky News the coalition’s “alarmist” rhetoric, such as the term “border protection”, was designed to make Australians fear asylum seekers.

Ms Gillard could win the election by taking a “principled stand” on the issue, Mr Burnside said.

“There are some electorates where there are people who think it would be a good idea to send the boats back at gunpoint,” he said.

“I would regard that as a redneck attitude.

“If there are a few people who would rather see asylum seekers blown out of the water, well, I’m not sure that their views ought to govern the government’s policy.”

Liberal senator George Brandis said Mr Burnside’s view was “condescending” to people with legitimate concerns.

“Not only does it not assist the debate … to stigmatise those people as rednecks, it in fact inflames it by saying that those people are not entitled to their point of view,” he told Sky News.

Small Business Minister Craig Emerson agreed the “redneck” label was unhelpful, but also objected to Senator Brandis’ language.

“It is not unlawful to seek asylum by boat in Australia,” he said.

“He is part of this process of loading up the show with emotion, taking about illegal boatpeople, unlawful arrivals, I don’t think that helps.”