Saturday, August 10, 2013

PM says boat decision among hardest ever - Herald Sun

LABOR'S new hardline approach to soaring asylum seeker boat arrivals was among the hardest decisions Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has ever had to make.

Mr Rudd's admission came as Labor and the opposition traded insults over government advertising and whether that breached the caretaker conventions.

"I found them amongst the hardest decisions I have made," Mr Rudd told reporters in Hobart after a fifth group of 40 asylum seekers was transferred to PNG.

Mr Rudd ditched coalition policy in favour of a more humane approach in 2008 but now sends people who arrive with out a visa to PNG for processing and resettlement.

The decision was "difficult" because it dealt with real people, some bona fide refugees, but if boats kept arriving more people would drown, he said.

Government advertising about the policy in Australia encourages people to tell potential asylum seeker relatives and friends about the new policy.

The opposition supports the advertising overseas but has rejected domestic asylum seeker ads.

"We do not support the continuation of a multi-million dollar taxpayer funded campaign aimed at Australian voters rather than people residing overseas," Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said in a letter to Mr Rudd.

Coalition campaign spokesman Christopher Pyne said the ads were directed at "vote people not boat people".

And shadow attorney-general George Brandis attacked the government for violating caretaker conventions by proceeding with the advertising without the opposition agreeing.

But Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said it was vital the ads continue and the opposition had no power of veto.
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