Buy 'people-smuggler' boats says Abbott

2013-08-23 11:58
Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott speaking to a businessmen gathering during an election campaign in Sydney. (Saeed Khan, AFP)

Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott speaking to a businessmen gathering during an election campaign in Sydney. (Saeed Khan, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Sydney - The frontrunner for Australia's September 7 election would pay Indonesians for unseaworthy boats to stop them ending up in the hands of people-smugglers, as part of a plan unveiled Friday.

Asylum-seekers arriving by usually rickety boats, often via transit hubs in Indonesia, are a major political issue in Australia and tend to dominate election campaigns, despite coming in relatively low numbers by global standards.

Tony Abbott, who is leading Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in opinion polls, said he would step up on-the-ground operations in Indonesia with a "community outreach" scheme aimed at disrupting people-smuggling rings.

The $397m scheme would include a capped government buy-back plan for the leaky fishing vessels as well as stipends for Indonesian "wardens" in 100 villages to provide information to Australia and bounty payments for information leading to successful smuggling prosecutions.

"The important thing is that we stop the boats," Abbott told reporters in Darwin.

"It's much better and much more sensible to spend a few thousand dollars in Indonesia than to spend $12m processing the people who ultimately arrive here," he said, referring to the figure the opposition claims the government spends processing every boat that arrives.

‘Simply crazy policy’

Abbott refused to "put a figure on" how much he would be prepared to pay per boat and said allowances or bounties would be left to the discretion of "our people on the ground".

He also pledged $67 m to deploy specialist Australian police operatives in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

Abbott declined to comment on whether he had spoken to the Indonesian government about his plans, which were ridiculed as "crazy" and "bizarre" by Australia's ruling Labor party.

"It is absolutely in Indonesia's interest to stop the boats, I have no reason to think that the Indonesians won't be prepared to work co-operatively and constructively with us," he said.

Teuku Faizasyah, spokesperson for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, declined to comment on the buy-back plan.

"Abbott and Rudd are in the middle of campaigning, so I think it's improper to comment on their political statements as its part of their efforts to win over voters," he told AFP.

Both major parties have pledged a crackdown on the issue - Rudd's Labor government has signed an agreement with Papua New Guinea to banish boatpeople there for permanent resettlement even if found to have a valid refugee claim, effectively closing Australia's borders to those arriving by boat.

Abbott has argued for a military-led border patrol operation for the heavily trafficked sea corridor between Australia and Java, in Indonesia, and towing boats back where possible.

Immigration Minister Tony Burke rejected Abbott's latest plans as "simply crazy policy" that would only benefit the Indonesian shipbuilding industry, with no way to buy boats as fast as they could be made.

"Of all the mad ideas I've heard in immigration, I think boat buy-back wins," Burke said, adding that Indonesia had one of the largest fishing fleets in the world, with the majority of vessels "used by poor villagers to make a livelihood".

"I think you can guarantee, absolutely guarantee, that the opposition never tested the boat buy-back policy with the Indonesians because the Indonesians know how big the fishing fleet is for their country," said Burke.

"I think it's pretty patronising to our neighbours."

Read more on:    tony abbott  |  kevin rudd  |  australia  |  australia elections 2013

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.