PNG message hurting people smugglers: ALP

THE Rudd government believes it's gaining the upper hand in its fight against people smugglers, with asylum seekers in Indonesia reportedly demanding their money back.
The government's tough message that arriving on a boat without a visa means you won't get to stay in Australia is getting through, Immigration Minister Tony Burke said on Wednesday.
It came with news that another boat, carrying 65 people, had been intercepted overnight near Christmas Island.
Mr Burke said reports from Indonesia indicated asylum seekers were demanding their money back from people smugglers.
They now knew they would be buying a ticket to Papua New Guinea or Nauru, and not to Australia, he said.
"When I say the demands for money back are widespread, they are absolutely widespread," Mr Burke said told reporters in Sydney.
"There is no doubt that the message is getting through.
"They realise that what they have paid for is no longer available to them."
In another sign the hardline policy was working, Mr Burke said a "very significant" number of asylum seekers sent to PNG's Manus Island were now in talks with the International Organisation for Migration to be transferred back home.
Labor and the coalition on Wednesday argued about the government's asylum seeker resettlement deal with Papua New Guinea amid claims it may have contravened caretaker government conventions.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has written to Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet boss Ian Watt demanding answers about when Australia signed the memorandum of understanding.
Mr Rudd says it was signed shortly before the September 7 election writs were issued and the government entered caretaker mode on Monday, but PNG only signed the deal late on Tuesday.
"I have absolute confidence in the proper execution of it because the Australian government signed this MOU prior to entering into caretaker," Mr Rudd told reporters in Sydney.
"The cabinet of Papua New Guinea met after the caretaker conventions entered into force and then they signed."
Mr Abbott said whether or not Mr Rudd had breached the caretaker convention, he had broken faith with the Australian people.
"What Mr Rudd said ... when he brandished the two-page arrangement is every illegal arrival by boat would go to PNG and, second, no-one who went to PNG would ever come to Australia," Mr Abbott told reporters in Adelaide.
"Now that we've seen the documents it's clear Mr Rudd was not being honest with the Australian people because the documents say no such thing."
Mr Abbott seized on news of the latest boat arrival carrying 65 people.
"Our country has passed a terrible milestone," he told reporters.
He says it brings to just over 50,000 the number of people who have arrived on asylum seeker boats under two terms of a Labor government.
The figure includes boat crew members.


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