Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has again used the harsh rhetoric of former prime minister John Howard in announcing yet another plank to the Coalition's asylum seeker policy.
The ''regional deterrence framework'' to stop asylum seekers travelling by boat through the region, which Mr Abbott announced at a press conference in Darwin on Friday, includes ramping up the AFP presence in Indonesia and a boat buyback scheme.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison announce another part of their asylum seeker policy. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
''We run this country and we decide who comes here,'' Mr Abbott said told reporters.
But the government has ridiculed the plan, labelling it ''crazy''.
Under the policy, if elected, the Coalition would:
- Provide $67 million to support joint operations with Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia to disrupt people smuggling through international deployment of specialist Australian Federal Police officers;
- Implement a $20 million program with the International Organisation for Migration to enlist Indonesian villages to support people smuggling disruption, including a capped boat buy-back scheme that provides an incentive for owners of dangerous vessels to sell them to government officials, not people smugglers;
- Appoint a special envoy for Operation Sovereign Borders to focus on facilitating international cooperation on the Regional Deterrence Framework;
- Seek to establish transit zones within the region to facilitate the transfer of asylum seekers to offshore processing facilities, preventing entry to Australia.
- Invest $27 million to prevent drowning at sea through increased aerial surveillance and offer up to $71 million to boost search and rescue response capability of Indonesian authorities within their search and rescue zone;
- Supplement our border protection fleet with commercially leased vessels to support patrol operations including offshore processing transfer
Opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, said the Coalition’s announcement on Friday was ''putting substance to what regional co-operation means''.
Labor's approach was about ''processing people and drawing people through the region'', while the Coalition's was ''focused unashamedly on deterring people'', Mr Morrison said.
Mr Abbott rejected suggestions that his boat buyback scheme could stimulate Indonesia's boat-building industry, saying it was ''much more sensible to spend a few thousand dollars in Indonesia'' than to spend millions processing asylum seekers once they arrive in Australia.
''It's a common sense measure . . . to cut off this evil trade at source,'' Mr Abbott said.
But Immigration Minister Tony Burke has described the Coalition's boat buyback scheme as ''simply crazy policy''.
''We are talking about a buy back scheme in a market of three quarters of a million boats,'' he said.
''Of all the mad ideas I have heard in immigration I think the boat buy back wins.''
Mr Burke also suggested the Indonesia government might not be thrilled about the Coalition making a ''unilateral'' decision to send thousands of federal police officers onto the ground in Indonesia.
He was also scathing that aspects of covert operations were detailed to the media for Friday morning's newspapers.
''Principle one of covert operations is you don't drop them to the media,'' Mr Burke says.
Mr Burke says it's a ''clever media line [that] is sort of a match up to the kindergarten child who runs around saying 'I've got a secret do you want to hear it'.''
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Friday that the Coalition's latest announcement was ''genuinely interesting policy, this one''.
''Mr Abbott's plan to have . . . [a] three-star general sitting at the end of a jetty with a cheque book to buy back fishing boats in Indonesia'', was as irresponsible as the Opposition Leader's $5.5 billion-a-year paid parental leave scheme, Mr Rudd told a press conference in Penrith on Friday morning.
Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten also rubbished the plan.
''This is crazy. The opposition are getting desperate,'' Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.
''Wait until the news gets out throughout South-East Asia that if you've got a leaky unsafe boat that the Australian taxpayer is going to buy it off you.''
Later on Friday, Mr Morrison defended the buyback measure, saying the aim of the policy was to help with operations, to allow particular boats to be targeted for purchase to disrupt smuggling ventures.
He said the fund would also allow authorities to offer bounties for information and would be directed by intelligence "boat by boat".
Earlier on Friday, Mr Morrison said: ''If we can stop people coming, and transiting through the region, we can stop them coming to Australia.''
''The minute a boat leaves Indonesia or Sri Lanka, every option for Australia gets more expensive and dangerous for all involved. This is about dealing with this challenge up the chain before it presents at sea.''
Most of Australia's covert disruption activities, disrupting the movements of asylum seekers, would be conducted on land, he said. ''Once someone gets in a boat it all gets harder,'' he said. ''It gets more dangerous and harder to stop.''
But Mr Morrison acknowledged he had not had formal talks with his counterparts in Indonesia, Malaysia or Sri Lanka, and said finalising the types of agreements he wanted to establish in the region could only be done from government.
The policy follows Mr Abbott's announcement last month that he would appoint a three-star military commander to oversee as many as a dozen government agencies responsible for border security, and another after that with a punitive policy for those who have already made it to Australia, in a bid to deter others.
with Bianca Hall, Daniel Flitton