CANBERRA – Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is blaming federal government dysfunction for a change in Indonesian immigration policy that could boost the number of asylum seeker boats heading to Australia.
The Indonesian government has confirmed plans to relax visa restrictions for three major asylum seeker source countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
That means people who may want to seek asylum in Australia will be able to more easily enter Indonesia, the main launching pad for the dangerous boat journey.
But Mr Abbott yesterday refused to criticise Indonesia’s decision.
“The problem with border protection more generally is not the Indonesian government, it’s the Australian government,” he said.
Mr Abbott mused on whether Indonesia had consulted Australia before making its decision.
“And if, as I suspect, there was no or very little consultation, you’ve got to wonder what the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have been doing,” he said.
“Frankly if we had a more functional government, where the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister were capable of having a conversation, we wouldn’t have the difficulties that we do with the Indonesians on this issue.”
Mr Abbott again made it clear he was in no mood to help the government resurrect its Malaysian people swap deal.
“What you won’t see from us are weak compromises with a bad government,” he said.
He urged the government to “get cracking” on reopening the Nauru detention centre, which was closed after the 2007 election won by Labor.
“You don’t need to be talking to the Coalition, you need to be talking with the government of Nauru,” Mr Abbott said.
“Get the centre open there.”
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