Abbott invokes Howard on boats
Matthew Franklin, Chief political correspondent
From: The Australian
July 07, 2010 12:00AM
TONY Abbott has promised he would give his immigration minister the right to veto decisions on refugee status.
The Opposition Leader has also promised to reward asylum-seekers who apply for asylum from overseas refugee camps ahead of those who come to Australia illegally and seek refugee visas.
Mr Abbott announced the policy moves yesterday as he sought to overshadow Julia Gillard's announcement of Labor's plan to build a refugee-processing facility in East Timor. He also promised to punish asylum-seekers who deliberately destroy their personal documentation, creating a presumption against them being granted refugee status.
And he said he would increase the opportunities for churches and community groups to sponsor refugee settlements at their own expense.
The measures come in addition to previously announced plans to restore universal offshore processing, restore temporary protection visas and turn back refugee boats.
“A Coalition government will do whatever it takes — whatever it takes — to keep our borders secure and our country safe,” Mr Abbott said. “You cannot trust Labor to deal with this problem because Labor created this problem.
“My message to voters from now until polling day will be that if you want to stop the boats, you've got to change the government.”
Mr Abbott has made border security one of his key political issues since becoming Opposition Leader last December, putting former Labor leader Kevin Rudd under heavy pressure over an ongoing stream of asylum-seeker boats reaching northern Australia.
Yesterday, Mr Abbott rejected the Prime Minister's proposals, vowing that in government he would toughen the border security regime in the tradition of the previous Howard government.
“This means giving preference to those people who apply offshore from the various camps and other settlements around the world, rather than those who seek to take their place by arriving illegally, whether by boat or other means,” Mr Abbott said.
“In particular, this means attacking the criminal business of people-smugglers and denying them a product to sell, namely almost-guaranteed permanent residence, as currently occurs under Labor's policies.”
Under Mr Abbott's new changes, an extra 1500 resettlement places will be allocated to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees processing of offshore applications, increasing the overall share of the program for people processed offshore.
The total number of resettlement places available each year would remain at 13,750.
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