24 Nov 2012

Refugee increase too expensive: Abbott

9:09 am on 24 November 2012

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says Australia simply cannot afford an increased refugee intake.

Mr Abbott on Friday vowed to reverse a recent decision by Labor to increase the annual humanitarian refugee intake from 13,750 to 20,000 annually if the coalition wins next year's election.

"We can't afford it. It's as simple as that," Mr Abbott said in Melbourne on Friday.

The cut would save the federal budget an estimated $A1.3 billion over the next four years.

Mr Abbott said the coalition would reserve 11,000 of the 13,750 permanent protection visas on offer each year for those waiting in refugee camps.

No permanent visas would go to people who arrived by boat. They would instead be issued temporary protection visas.

AAP reports Mr Abbott also defended the coalition's constant use of the phrase "illegal" when describing refugees coming to Australia by boat.

"I make no apologies for calling them for what they are," he said.

"They are people who have arrived illegally in this country, and I've got to say that the Australian people are sick of being taken for mugs."