8 Aug 2010

Australian opposition targets boat people in poll bid

6:05 pm on 8 August 2010

Australia's opposition leader Tony Abbott has pledged to jail people-smugglers for a minimum 10 years, formally launching his campaign for the 21 August election with an appeal for tougher border protection.

Opinion polls show that voters in key marginal seats are concerned that Canberra is not doing enough to turn back boatloads of asylum seekers.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard immediately dismissed the boat people policy, saying her government had already toughened penalties for people smuggling.

The government introduced new border protection laws this year, including a maximum penalty of 20 years jail and a maximum of 10 years jail for assisting people smugglers.

Mr Abbott also promised to kill off the government's proposed 30% mining tax on the first day of a conservative government, and produce a national economic blueprint within his first month.

And he said he would set up a carbon-emissions reduction fund in his first three months to combat climate change.

He opposes the government's plan for a carbon-trading scheme.