The Courier-Mail

PM firm on ‘no boats’ stance

- STEVEN SCOTT

TONY Ab­bott has talked down the like­li­hood of Aus­tralia in­creas­ing its in­take of refugees flee­ing Syria, de­spite calls from min­is­ters Barnaby Joyce and Julie Bishop.

The Prime Min­is­ter said other coun­tries could learn from his pol­icy of turn­ing back asy­lum-seeker boats.

He said the im­age of a three-year-old Syr­ian boy drowned as his fam­ily tried to reach Greece should en­cour­age coun­tries to stop peo­plesmug­gling.

“If you can stop illegal immigratio­n, one of the ben­e­fi­cial side-ef­fects is that you don’t have deaths at sea,” he said.

“We had – as you might re­mem­ber – the har­row­ing busi­ness of peo­ple dy­ing on the rocks of Christ­mas Is­land just a few years ago as part of that evil peo­ple-smug­gling trade, and thank God we’ve stopped it be­cause when you stop the trade, you stop the deaths.”

But The New York Times de­scribed Mr Ab­bott’s noboats pol­icy as “bru­tal” and “in­hu­mane”.

“His poli­cies have been in­hu­mane, of du­bi­ous le­gal­ity and strik­ingly at odds with the coun­try’s tra­di­tion of wel­com­ing peo­ple flee­ing per­se­cu­tion and war,” the pa­per’s ed­i­to­rial said.

But Mr Ab­bott said his poli­cies were “com­pas­sion­ate” be­cause they ul­ti­mately stopped deaths at sea. “I know there has been quite a bit of in­ter­est in the poli­cies that Aus­tralia has put in place, be­cause if you do stop the peo­ple-smug­gling trade ... ob­vi­ously you end the deaths at sea,” he said.

“The most com­pas­sion­ate thing you can do in the medium and long term is to close down this evil trade, be­cause as long as this evil trade is op­er­at­ing, as long as peo­ple are tak­ing to the sea in un­safe boats, we will see the drown­ings.”

Mr Ab­bott said the Gov­ern­ment an­nounced plans to take an ex­tra 4400 refugees from Syria and Iraq a year ago.

Op­po­si­tion immigratio­n spokesman Richard Mar­les called on the Gov­ern­ment to boost fund­ing to UN refugee agency UNHCR, say­ing: “Aus­tralia must show lead­er­ship, de­cency and com­pas­sion.”

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