Oz Prime Minister To Face Police Over Australia's 'Bribes' To Smugglers
Published: 16th June 2015 07:57 AM | Last Updated: 16th June 2015 07:58 AM | A+A A-
SYDNEY: Tony Abbott, Australia's prime minister, faces a police investigation into an alleged payment of pounds 19,000 to people smugglers to turn back a boatload of migrants.
Mr Abbott's most senior MP said yesterday (Monday) it was a cheaper option than allowing asylum seekers to enter.
Philip Ruddock, a former immigration minister and the longest-serving MP, said the government would save money by paying people smugglers to turn around. Like his leader, Mr Ruddock did not confirm whether the payments were made.
"The amount of money that was allegedly paid is nothing in comparison to the cost of processing the excessive amount of people who came to Australia as a result of people smuggling activity," he told The Herald Sun. "Having so many people come to Australia as a result of the hideous people smuggling trade and processing them in Australia cost millions and millions of dollars."
A police chief on Rote Island in Indonesia, where the asylum seekers came ashore last month, has claimed Australian border officials intercepted the vessel and gave $US5,000 (pounds 3,200) to each of the six crew members to sail back.
Several of the 65 asylum seekers aboard the boat, which was headed for New Zealand, have also claimed they saw the payments being made.
International lawyers have said the alleged payments would be considered illegal and were tantamount to Australia funding people smuggling. Indonesia has begun an investigation and demanded that Australia provides an explanation.
Mr Abbott has adopted one of the world's toughest approaches to asylum seekers, including towing back boats to Indonesia and holding all arrivals in remote island detention centres.
He has insisted that Australia acted lawfully. "This government does not feel the need to broadcast our intentions and our tactics to our enemies," he told parliament. "The only thing that really counts is that this government has stopped the boats."
Mr Abbott could be investigated by the Australian Federal Police after the Greens requested an inquiry into whether officials had broken the law. "Tony Abbott is treating this like he is waving away a parking fine," said Richard Di Natale, the Greens leader. Police said the Greens' request was being considered.