Australia’s Abbott Proposes Buying ‘Smuggler’ Boats

A group of 21 Sri Lankan asylum seekers rest on their wooden boat on arrival at a port in Malang in East Java province on March 26, 2013 after Indonesian fishermen rescued the group at sea while their boat drifted for several days. (AFP Photo/Aman Rochman)

A group of 21 Sri Lankan asylum seekers rest on their wooden boat on arrival at a port in Malang in East Java province on March 26, 2013 after Indonesian fishermen rescued the group at sea while their boat drifted for several days. (AFP Photo/Aman Rochman)

The frontrunning candidate in Australia’s election, Tony Abbott, would pay Indonesians for unseaworthy boats to stop them from ending up with people-smugglers, as part of a plan unveiled Friday.

Abbott, who is leading Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in opinion polls ahead of the September 7 vote, said he would step up on-the-ground operations in Indonesia with a “community outreach” scheme aimed at disrupting people-smuggling rings.

The Aus$440 million ($397 million) scheme would include a capped government buy-back plan for the leaky fishing vessels used to ferry asylum-seekers as well as stipends for Indonesian “wardens” in 100 villages to spy for Australia and bounty payments for information leading to successful smuggling prosecutions.

Abbott declined to comment on whether he had spoken to the Indonesian government about his plans, which were ridiculed as “crazy” and “bizarre” by the ruling Labor party.

“It’s much better and much more sensible to spend a few thousand dollars in Indonesia than to spend $12 million dollars processing the people who ultimately arrive here,” Abbott told reporters.

He refused to “put a figure on” how much he would be prepared to pay per boat and said allowances or bounties would be left to the discretion of “our people on the ground.”

“It is absolutely in Indonesia’s interest to stop the boats, I have no reason to think that the Indonesians won’t be prepared to work cooperatively and constructively with us,” Abbott said.

Asylum-seekers arriving by boat, often via transit hubs in Indonesia, are a major political issue in Australia and tend to dominate election campaigns, despite coming in relatively low numbers by global standards.

Both major parties have pledged a crackdown on the issue — Rudd’s Labor government has signed an agreement with Papua New Guinea to banish asylum seekers there for permanent resettlement even if found to have a valid refugee claim, effectively closing Australia’s borders to those arriving by boat.

Abbott has argued for a military-led border patrol operation for the heavily-trafficked sea corridor between Australia and Java, and towing boats back where possible.

Immigration Minister Tony Burke rejected Abbott’s latest plans as “simply crazy policy” that would only benefit the Indonesian shipbuilding industry.

“Of all the mad ideas I’ve heard in immigration, I think boat buy-back wins,” he said, adding that Indonesia had one of the largest fishing fleets in the world.

Agence France-Presse

  • http://www.facebook.com/dawn.sachse.1 Dawn Sachse

    Oh yea MR Abbott buy there boats and with the money they can buy bigger boats!

  • Edward

    This just goes to show why this leader and his party of numb skulls should not be elected to office a buy back scheme why did we not think of this before Droit du seigneur your vision is the mentality of the first nights right Abbott is this the solution we have been waiting so long for

  • Wendy

    Clever idea! better to stop them coming than paying for them for years after they get
    here – or worse still seeing them drown!! Labor policies haven’t worked – lets get
    back to basics with the LNP.

  • Sensible

    Indonesia, get ready for a lucrative boat building industry if Abbott becomes PM. One of the craziest ideas to have come out of a politician. Power craze can make people go mad.

  • DanielKaimana

    Cannot believe my eyes.. After its hormonal cows, now Australia speaks the best of its own, very clever.. I don’t blame him.. The world is a mess

  • Bagong

    Abbot idea is derogatory and insulting, tell her to grow up

  • Maharg

    Wake up Australia …does Indonesia really want to help ?
    Indonesian fishermen would be paid a bounty ( reward ) for information leading to the capture of a people smuggler. As reward the fisherman would be paid a bounty , his boat would be destroyed and he and his family would be resettled in Australia rather than captain the boat for the people smuggler and become a refugee himself.
    Result is the boat is not replaced, no one drowns and the people smuggler is caught.
    That is not offensive and Indonesia should co operate with the implementation of the program .

  • hgunaw

    No insult here: it is a bright idea; all transactions can be transparent; Indonesian authority and people who can give the service for Australian interest can get just rewards; it is simply smart. I do not think the rewarding for this service is bribery. It is simply bright on providing service what becomes a demand.