15 Aug 2013

Common ground on asylum boats gone: Burke

6:10 am on 15 August 2013

Australian Immigration Minister Tony Burke says there is no longer common ground between the federal goverment and the coalition on border security

After Labor announced of its Papua New Guinea plan on 19 July, the coalition "were indicating a level of support", Mr Burke said. "But it lasted about 24 hours."

AAP reports the minister was debating his opposition counterpart Scott Morrison on ABC TV on Wednesday, after three more asylum seeker vessels arrived in Australian waters, carrying 209 people.

Asked to define their key differences on border policy, Mr Burke said Labor was focused on the humanitarian element of border control, while Mr Morrison said "deterrence" was the opposition's main aim.

"We have a difference of view about some critical points about turning boats back and things of that nature," Mr Morrison said when asked why the two parties can't find common ground on the issue.

Mr Burke insisted turning back vessels will not be effective because "boats now come ready for sabotage" as soon as they are spotted by Australian authorities.

He said the government's regional agreements with PNG and Nauru had started to work.

"There has been a tapering down ... (people smugglers) are steadily running out of the number of customers because the product has been taken from them," Mr Burke said, citing a reduction of up to 20% in the number of people boarding boats bound for Australia since the regional solution was implemented.