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Labor and coalition play the blame game on boat arrivals

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With a budget-week surge in asylum-seeker boat arrivals, Labor and the opposition have exchanged what are now almost customary insults on who's responsible.


The government says the recent arrival of two boats carrying 183 asylum seekers means a total of 31 boats had arrived since Opposition leader Tony Abbott rejected Labor's offer of a joint approach to offshore process

The opposition says the latest two arrivals took budget-week boat arrivals to more than 550, all because Labor refused to admit their policies had failed.

Navy patrol boat HMAS Wollongong intercepted one vessel carrying 99 passengers and then a second carrying 84 passengers, both off Christmas Island, within the space of 24 hours this week.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said this was a consequence of the coalition's refusal to act in the national interest and work with the government to implement offshore processing.

"Late last year, the government approached the opposition in good faith to sit down and discuss what we could do to prevent people from risking their lives at sea," Mr Bowen said.

"We were willing to compromise, to negotiate, to put politics aside for the national interest. But Tony Abbott said no. He said no to offshore processing, no to Nauru, no to Malaysia, no to a review of temporary protection visas."

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said illegal boats were continuing to arrive at record levels.

"Labor remains resigned to giving up and giving in to the Greens' soft border policies, refusing to restore the policies that worked," he said in a statement on Saturday.

Mr Morrison said offshore processing on Nauru could be reopened, temporary protection visas reintroduced and boats turned around where it was safe to do so without one change to legislation.

"The only thing standing in the way of Labor reintroducing proven policies to stop the boats is their stubborn pride, and unwillingness to let go of their failed, rejected and illegal five-for-one Malaysian people swap."

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