Tony Abbott, the leader of the Australian opposition Liberal-National coalition, defended the “turn back the boats” plan against illegal immigration criticized by the new prime Kevin Rudd in his first press conference.
The plan proposed is resurrect the former Howard government’s policy of instructing the navy to tow boats carrying asylum seekers back to Indonesia. But Indonesia said that will not accept the boats.
Kevin Rudd said that “when the Indonesian government says they will not accept such a policy … I really wonder if he (Mr. Abbott) is trying to risk some sort of conflict with Indonesia”.
“What happens on Day 1 when Field Marshal Tony puts out the order to the captain of the naval frigate X to turn back a bunch of boats and you have got a naval frigate from the Indonesian Navy on the other side of the equation?” he asked.
According to The Australian, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa refused to comment directly on Mr Rudd’s statement, but did appear to level criticism at the opposition’s policy.
“If we were simply addressing (the asylum-seeker problem) at one end of the pipeline we would be shifting the issue to another part of the pipeline – comprehensiveness is what we are looking for,” Dr Natalegawa said following talks with Foreign Minister Bob Carr in Jakarta today, always according to The Australian.
Thousands of asylum seekers try to reach Christmas Island from Indonesia by boat each year. Christmas Island is Australia’s closest territory to Indonesia. The crossing is dangerous in the frail or packed vessels used by smugglers and there have been shipwrecks with people killed, something similar to what happen with immigrants trying to reach Europe from Africa.
According to Australia’s laws, asylum seekers who arrive can be deported to offshore detention centers.
If Australia goes back to the policy of “turn back the boats”, the situation would be impossible for the asylum seekers, because they don’t have where to go because go back to Indonesia is not an option for them.
The polemic about this policy erupted in an electoral campaigning moment, with the Liberal-National Coalition trying to take the power to a debilitated Labor party now rising thanks to Rudd’s popularity.