29 Jul 2013

Rudd defends PNG deal as more boats arrive

5:22 am on 29 July 2013

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd won't say when his plan to send boat asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea will work. Meanwhile, another refugee vessel has been intercepted en route to Australia.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare on Sunday confirmed a boat with 83 passengers was spotted on Thursday northeast of Christmas Island.

That takes to 17 the number of boats that have been intercepted since Mr Rudd's declaration on 19 July that new arrivals will never be settled in Australia and will instead be sent to PNG for processing and possible resettlement.

AAP reports the new approach is aimed at discouraging people from taking dangerous sea voyages to Australia.

Mr Rudd has refused to say whether he expected the PNG deal would slow the boats before the federal election.

"It is the implementation of that policy direction over time, resolutely, which will yield results," he told the Bolt Report on Network Ten. "In the interim, people smugglers will test your resolve."

The prime minister said he had always expected people smugglers to test the government's resolve on its new PNG arrangement.

"(But) we are not for turning. Our policy is very clear," he said. "Our policy is very clear ... you will not be settled in Australia."

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the real test for the PNG arrangement would be whether asylum seekers would be resettled in that country.

"I know people want to believe that this thing is the answer," he told ABC television. "But the truth here is there is a long way to go both in the implementation and legal issues."

AAP reports Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said it had taken Mr Rudd five years and almost 50,000 people arriving by boat to support offshore processing.

"This government is all announcement and no delivery," he said in Sydney. "It's all talk and no action."