The Federal Government has shut another immigration detention centre as it intensifies attacks on Labor over border protection ahead of the election.
But the closure of the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre is more than six months late, with the Coalition missing a mid-2018 deadline.
The last detainee was this week transferred to another onshore detention centre, ending more than 30 years of operations at the outer-Melbourne site.
Ten thousand people were in onshore detention when numbers peaked in 2013 – a number that has fallen to about 1250, plus another 1000 people on Manus Island and Nauru.
“This Government has stopped the boats, got the children out of detention, and closed the once-full immigration detention facilities,” Immigration Minister David Coleman said.
“These closures reflect the Government’s ongoing success in maintaining strong borders.”
The announcement of the closure came a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison emphasised his Government’s stance on border protection during his New Year’s Day message.
“We’ll keep Australians safe. We’ll keep the border protection policies that actually work. No changes to any of them. You don’t change what’s working,” he said.
Over recent weeks the Coalition has also sought to highlight differences between Labor’s policies and its own.
In early December, Labor supported a crossbench push that would have given refugees on Papua New Guinea and Nauru easier access to Australia’s medical system.
“[Opposition Leader] Bill Shorten is a clear and present threat to Australia’s safety,” Mr Morrison said at the time. “This is about Australia’s safety.”
The Coalition has also announced it plans to close the Blaxland detention compound at Villawood in Sydney by mid-year.
The plan to close the centres was first announced in May 2016 and was due to happen within two years.
“They can’t even competently close a detention centre,” Opposition immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann said.
“These things were announced years ago and [Home Affairs Minister Peter] Dutton expects to be patted on the back for his failure to fulfil timelines.”