PNG can't solve 'Australia's problem'

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s claim that all future boat people will be sent to Papua New Guinea has been labelled a “pre-election fix” by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
PNG can't solve 'Australia's problem' PNG can't solve 'Australia's problem' PNG can't solve 'Australia's problem' PNG can't solve 'Australia's problem' PNG can't solve 'Australia's problem'

The Australian government's solution to the endless arrivals of illegal asylum seekers was even splashed across the papers today, with government-sanctioned full-page advertisements featuring a large picture of a rundown, empty boat at sea. It stated: "If you come here by boat without a visa you won't be settled in Australia."

Various reports since Rudd's surprise policy announcement on Friday have put his claims in doubt.

According to The Australian PNG PM Peter O'Neill said asylum seekers would be "Australia's problem" for years.

While the PNG government reportedly agreed to resettle asylum seekers that were given refugee status, the Australia-operated detention centre on PNG's Manus Island won't be big enough.

Before recent expansion work it could house 600 people and its planned capacity of 3000 is still short of demand, with Australia receiving more than 2000 boat people a month over some periods of last year.

Abbott reportedly said there was no binding agreement on PNG keeping asylum seekers indefinitely.

"[Rudd] said that under the arrangements struck that everyone who came illegally by boat to Australia would go to PNG and that no one who went to PNG would ever come to Australia," Abbott said, according to The Australian.

"Neither of those assertions is borne out by the document. That's why I say … it is simply an election fix, something that's held together with Blu-Tack and sticky tape until polling day."

What makes the Australian government's position even more tenuous is that an estimated 80% of its detention centre on Nauru was destroyed in recent rioting.

The West Australian, which ran a cover image showing asylum seekers that arrived at 2am on Saturday being "sent to PNG", reported that the Solomon Islands government was likely to be approached to host a regional processing centre.

More announcements on Australia's asylum seeker policy are expected this week.

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