The Australian Defence Force chief responsible for border protection under the Howard government has criticised the Abbott government's asylum seeker policy.
Admiral Chris Barrie told the Sydney Morning Herald that detention centres are jails, saying the policies enacted by the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison are a mess that reflect badly on all of Australians.
The comments came at the Sydney launch of a book by international law academics Jane McAdam and Fiona Chong, Why Seeking Asylum is Legal and Australia's Policies are Not.
The Admiral was chief of the Australian Defence Force between 1998 and 2002 and in command of Operation RELEX which dealt with several thousand asylum seekers during that part of the Howard era.
Admiral Barrie says terms such as mandatory detention shouldn't be used when people are jailed without the rights granted to inmates in domestic Australian jails.
Professor McAdam says the book details the international dismay and bewilderment at Australia's treatment of asylum seekers.