With the elections drawing near, both Coalition and Labor stalwarts have ramped up their campaigns with stinging rebukes of each other’s policies.
Tony Abbott, Coalition leader, in a speech in Fremantle, Western Australia, accused the Labor Party of loosening the port security measures essential to the security and safety of Australia. If elected, he pledged additional security funding amounting to Aus$93 million to upgrade the current security measures in place. He also envisions the new funding to improve the quarantine measures for shipping and help restrict smuggling operations in Australia’s ports.
“Australia is in danger of losing control of its borders,” he said. He said that not all border protection issues are related to immigration and asylum seekers. He further added that, “There are a number of different aspects to proper border security.”
“Obviously stopping the boats is critical but illegal boats are not the only border security problem that we’ve got.”
This dichotomy though didn’t stop him from taking potshots at current Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s policy on immigration. He challenged the current government to get tough on border security and asylum seekers. He further suggested that Gillard pick up the phone and call Nauru, which has a mothballed detention facility for asylum seekers and boat immigrants. This facility was part of then PM Howard’s erstwhile monickered “Pacific Solution”.
Mr. Abbott then dismissed claims that he shares the same vision with Ms. Gillard on the issue of asylum seekers. He said that they have a very good record of being on opposite sides on the issues of temporary protection visas and the process on turning boats around for those seeking asylum. Another bomb he hurled at the current government is the policy of increasing immigration despite harder financial times. He said that during his party’s administration, the economy was booming and the number of immigrants peaked at 200,000 per year. On the other hand, while the Labor party held the government, the immigration headcount reached 300,000 despite the onset of the global financial crisis.
Abbott ended his tirade by hinting that the Coalition party’s new policy would be to curb the overseas immigration arrivals by up to 100,000 individuals. He added that the government should look at its numbers. Under existing policy, with the annual arrivals hovering around 300,000 a year, the population would certainly hit 43 million by 2050 and not 36 million as claimed by the Labor party figures.
“Julia Gillard says she’s against Kevin Rudd’s big Australia, but she’s continuing Kevin Rudd’s big Australia immigration program,” he said. “You can be rest assured we will have a policy and not a pose,” he told reporters.