News National Bill Shorten accuses Government on asylum seekers

Bill Shorten accuses Government on asylum seekers

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The Federal Opposition has accused the Government of hiding behind the military to avoid answering tough questions on border protection.

A group of roughly 60 asylum seekers rescued off Java on Thursday have been taken to Christmas Island, and the ABC understands Indonesia refused to take the group.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison released a statement saying the asylum seekers would be transferred from Christmas Island to either Manus Island or Nauru, and would not will not be resettled in Australia.

The Jakarta Post is reporting it is no longer Indonesian policy to accept asylum seekers from Australia.

The newspaper reports the past three requests by Australia to transfer asylum seekers to Indonesia, dating back to September, have been denied.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says the Government’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy is not transparent, and Australians are finding out more about government policy from the Indonesian media.

“Wow aren’t the Coalition in trouble on their boats policy?” Mr Shorten told Insiders.

“They said before the election that they would turn back the boats. Now we are seeing that not only are they not turning back the boats but they are hiding behind Australia’s military when they do press conferences.

“They are not answering questions about what’s really happening.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters the latest transfer of asylum seekers to Christmas Island is in line with Government policy.

“What this signals is that Government policies are in place and the boat people in question, the illegal boat people in question, will go swiftly to Manus Island or Nauru,” he said.

Today, Government frontbencher Christopher Pyne downplayed the seriousness of Indonesia’s decision not to accept the group.

Mr Pyne has told Channel 10 boats have been turned back to Indonesia but it will not always work that way.

“The recovery of our border protection, which has been so traduced by the Labor government is not a straight line,” he said.

“There will be times when it zigzags in different directions.”

Under the Government’s new media policy it will only talk about border protection issues at weekly briefings.