Federal Politics


Coalition lashed for boat-people 'brain snap'

A Coalition call for Sri Lankan boat arrivals to be sent straight back without processing has been labelled a "brain snap" by the Greens and "hypocritical" by the government.

Yesterday, Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop and opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said Australia should reach an agreement with Sri Lanka for the "immediate transfer of people intercepted" back to where they came from.

"The rejection rate for Sri Lankan asylum seekers is extremely high," the two Coalition frontbenchers said, adding that the "vast majority" proved to be economic migrants and that there was a higher incidence of negative security assessments by ASIO.

Today, Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the move was in breach of international law.

“This latest brain-snap by the Coalition is simply extraordinary – it is illegal, dangerous and blatantly discriminatory," she said.

“Refusing desperate people protection prior to having their claims assessed is cruel and breaches our obligations under the Refugee Convention."


Defence Minister Stephen Smith called Ms Bishop's comments "extraordinary and hypocritical."

"This is the political party who said that they couldn't authorise the Malaysian arrangement because Malaysia was not a party to the Refugee Convention," he said.

But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was standing by the comments, saying that turning boats around "where its safe to do so" was an important element in the border protection policy.

"Sri Lanka had a civil war, the civil is long over," he said.

"That's why it is important to have a robust policy in place to stop the boats."

The Sri Lanka suggestion comes as a boat carrying 56 people was intercepted north-north-west of Cocos Islands overnight.

So far this year, 140 boats have arrived in Australian waters carrying about 9,123 people.

Refugee and Tamil groups have also condemned the idea.

With AAP

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