25 Jul 2013

Coalition unveils plan to stop people-smugglers

8:23 pm on 25 July 2013

Australia's Coalition has unveiled plans to put a military commander in charge of the job of stopping people-smugglers and securing the country's borders.

Under the proposal, named Operation Sovereign Borders, the commander would be appointed by the Chief of the Defence Force and would report directly to the Immigration Minister, the ABC reports.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott said that people smuggling was a "national emergency".

He said a Coalition government would ask the Defence Force to appoint a three-star commander to lead a joint agency taskforce to deal with people smugglers and border protection. Operation Sovereign Borders would be put in place within 100 days of the Coalition taking government and would involve all 12 agencies with direct involvement in border security.

"This is one of the most serious external situations that we have faced in many a long year," Mr Abbott told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.

"It must be tackled with decisiveness, with urgency, with the appropriate level of seriousness. That's why we need to have a senior military officer in operational control of this very important national emergency."

Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the proposal had come after years of work with senior defence advisers.

The Coalition said it would will also finalise details on its plans to turn back asylum seeker boats when safe within its first 100 days in office.

But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has already dismissed the policy as another slogan from the Opposition.

"He's got a new three-word slogan today, I think its called Operation something-or-other," he said. "So we've now got two three-word slogans: 'Stop the boats - Operation something-or-other'".

The Coalition's announcement came a day after Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister launched an extraordinary attack on the Coalition, accusing it of "misrepresenting" Australia's foreign aid deal with his country.