6 November 2003

Border security debate reignites

Prime Minister John Howard accused Labor of making it easier for illegal immigrants to enter the country as the arrival of a boatload of Kurdish asylum-seekers reignited political debate over border protection.

Mr Howard attacked Labor for refusing to support government legislation and regulations excising hundreds of islands and reefs off the Australian coast from the country's migration zone.

'On three occasions the Labor Party, under the direction of the Leader of the Opposition, has acted to make it easier for illegal immigrants to gain access to this country,' Mr Howard told parliament. 'That is what the leader of the opposition has done and no amount of obfuscation can alter that fundamental fact.'

But Labor said the government's move to excise territories from Australia's migration zone was a huge overreaction and an attempt to distract attention from how its coastal surveillance efforts had failed to stop the latest boat before it arrived at Melville Island, near Darwin.

Are we surprised? Let's see, the start of the Tampa pseudocrisis was the government drawing down border protection and then creating a national panic when the effect of the drawing down was the arrival of a refugee boat in Australian waters.

Now we have a sudden border crisis, the result of drawing down border surveillance, and the prime minister shrieking about 'no amount of obfuscation'. Plus �a change...

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