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Saturday, August 11 , 2012 - 4.45 GMT
Australia seeks circuit breaker in asylum seeker policy


Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has urged Australian parliament to find a “circuit breaker” to the asylum seeker policy deadlock next week, as a boat carrying 211 passengers is taken in for processing.

The boat, assisted by navy patrol boats Larrakia and Ararat northeast of Christmas Island on Wednesday, is being taken to the island where its Sri Lankan, Iranian, Afghan and Pakistani passengers will undergo checks.

It is the largest number of passengers on one boat since the Rudd government was elected in 2007, and adds to the more than 7000 boat arrivals so far this year.

The federal government will receive a report from former defence chief Angus Houston on Monday, outlining a range of solutions for preventing the dangerous boat journeys and smashing the people-smugglers’ business model.

The Australian Immigration Minister said the latest incident showed the need to get on with solving the policy deadlock free from “political points-scoring” and for all parties to consider the Houston report in good faith.

“In coming days we’ll obviously see its recommendations and we’ll be working very hard to see that circuit breaker implemented,” he told ABC Radio on Friday.
The minister remained hopeful the Australian Greens party room would consider the report’s suggestions, but was disappointed with the coalition’s reluctance to even consider the findings.

“These are three very eminent Australians (on the Houston panel) and I think the approach of Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison has been quite disrespectful to them,” he said, adding it was also quite disrespectful to the Australian people who wanted to see the issue resolved in a bipartisan fashion.

Minister Bowen said rescuing asylum seekers is placing increased operational pressure on the navy.

“Of course, there’s been increased operational tempo in the north due to an increase in asylum seekers ... but they’d also be doing other work as well,” he said.

The Australian newspaper reported one patrol boat had been banned from operations and structural cracks had been discovered in at least two others.

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Last modified: August 11, 2012.

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