Turmbull Going Soft On Asylum Seekers, Liberal MP Says

Turnbull going soft on asylum seekers, Liberal MP says

Yuko Narushima
May 6, 2009

MALCOLM TURNBULL has been criticised from within his own party as being soft on asylum seekers as another boat carrying 50 people was intercepted off the West Australian coast yesterday.

The Liberal backbencher Bronwyn Bishop said people smugglers were capitalising on Labor's softer immigration policies. She then went on to accuse the Opposition Leader of himself weakening.

“Malcolm seems to have been strong at the beginning, but now he has gone soft,” the Manly Daily quoted her as saying.

Mrs Bishop is a frequent critic within the Coalition and is known for pushing hard-right policies on issues such as boat people and industrial relations.

She is resisting pressure to step down after being named alongside Philip Ruddock and Kevin Andrews as former Howard government ministers who should clear the way for fresh blood.

The internal attack came as the Opposition spokeswoman on immigration, Dr Sharman Stone, called for another detention centre to be opened offshore, warning the existing facilities on Christmas Island were struggling to cope.

About 8.30am yesterday a boat carrying 50 people, including a child and two women, was intercepted after being spotted from the air north-west of Broome. It is believed to have come from Indonesia.

It is believed those on board were mostly from Afghanistan. They were transferred onto a navy patrol boat after the wooden vessel was seen taking on water. It was also low on fuel.

The vessel was the 18th to be intercepted since Labor announced its “new directions in detention” policy last July.

The Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus, said the interception demonstrated the effectiveness of Australia's coastal surveillance. The group would be detained on Christmas Island for health and identity checks, he said.

But Dr Stone said Labor's changes to detention policy had caused people smugglers to get cocky and was stretching the Government's resources.

“Christmas Island will be full very soon.” She suggested expanding the immigration facility on Horn Island in the Torres Strait, which deals mostly with illegal fishermen.

However, a spokesman for the Minister for Immigration, Chris Evans, said the various buildings on Christmas Island could hold up to 1200 people.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald