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Boat interception renews asylum debate -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government is bracing itself for more boatloads of asylum seekers heading
to Australia. The Government is now boosting the capacity of the Christmas Island detention centre.

But the Opposition says it's just a stop gap measure and that we're just one boatload of asylum
seekers away from crisis point.

In response to the Coalition's criticism that the Government isn't doing enough to stem the influx,
the Prime Minister says Australia, with Indonesia's help, has stopped 82 planned people smuggling
operations in the last year.

Most recently, the Indonesian navy intercepted a boat carrying 261 Sri Lankans after a specific
tip-off by Australia. They've since been taken to a port in west Java where they've reportedly
threatened to blow up their ship if they're forced ashore by the Indonesian military.

The Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O'Connor, has just returned from an Interpol conference in
Singapore. Alexandra Kirk asked him exactly where this latest boat had been intercepted.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Look, I am advised it was in Indonesian waters. Of course what we do know is that
this interception really does underline how concerned the Indonesians are with people smuggling.
They have made that very clear.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Is this a one-off agreement from Indonesia following Kevin Rudd's plea to stop this
one boat or is there a commitment from the Indonesian president to be more vigilant in intercepting
boats?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: I can only say to you that the Indonesians have made clear in their statements
yesterday that they are concerned with people smuggling and as a result they have taken action and
we work very closely with them. We appreciate their efforts.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: It has been reported that Indonesia is willing to do more but wants greater
resources, a greater access to Australia's satellite imagery, more training for security agencies
and help with maritime surveillance. Is that your understanding?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Look, can I say that it would not be, in fact can I say it is the case that the
AFP (Australian Federal Police) and the Indonesian national police have been working very closely
on a whole range of transnational crimes, particularly since 9/11, and we do share and provide
support to Indonesia and they provide for support for us.

That is how it should be.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Do they want more access to Australia's resources?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, we, can I say that we have been very clear with this, Alex. We have always
provided support to them. The fact is when we are in their country we have sworn officers of the
Australian Federal Police located throughout Indonesia. We provide support. We have provided
support in the past. We will continue to provide support. If there is any request for support, we
will always consider it.

But it is not unusual, it is something that has gone on now for many a year.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Australian Government is sending 200 extra beds and port-a-loos to Christmas
Island to deal with the influx of asylum seekers, to expand the capacity to house now 1,400
detainees. The Opposition says it is only one more boatload away from being back at square one.
That it is like lining up ambulances at the bottom of the cliff. Is it only a stop gap measure?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, I am happy to have a policy debate with the Opposition but that is
impossibly while they are in complete chaos. Alex, they are split down the middle. They don't have
a policy.

The fact is, we are targeting the syndicates in relation to Christmas Island. The Minister for
Immigration has made clear that he has been considering contingencies and we are adjusting when
required.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: There is talk of a pipeline of some 10,000 people in south-east Asia wanting to
make their way to Australia. Is that the information that the Government is working on?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, can I say this that what is clear, everybody knows that there is of course
as a result of conflicts in Afghanistan, because of the very long conflict in Sri Lanka, there is a
greater likelihood of people seeking haven in first world countries and whilst a very small
proportion seek to come here, it is of course, an increased amount compared with recent years.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But how big a pipeline is there waiting to come to Australia?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: There is no, I don't think, this is not a particular science. We do know that
there are a number of people seeking to get to Australia.

We will do everything we can of course to prevent people being attracted to people smugglers.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: In this case you succeeded in getting this boatload of Sri Lankan asylum seekers
turned back. What is their fate, the asylum seekers' fate?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, can I say that of course now the Indonesians have made clear that this
matter will be processed properly. It is really something you should directly ask them but of
course...

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But Australia asked for Indonesia's help in this case.

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, can I say to you that the Indonesians have made clear that they do not
support people smuggling. They also made clear that this interception by them was as a result of
their concern that people smugglers are exploiting people.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The refugee advocates maintain that these people are condemned to spending up to
nine years in Indonesia waiting to be resettled. Is that satisfactory when Australia processes
people's claims within 90 days and then most are granted refugee status?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: We'll do our fair share in relation to humanitarian support and in relation to
providing support for refugees but we will not, at all, condone or support the process which
exploits people, that places them on dangerous vessels, that takes their life savings based on an
empty promise.

We will never support that approach and will continue to do whatever we can along with, of course,
other countries to prosecute people smugglers and jail them.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Will you keep an eye on the fate of these 260 Sri Lankans?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: I am sure that the International Office of Migration and other international
agencies will be engaged but that is something, of course, that is entirely up to the Indonesians.
It is a question of their sovereignty and it is of course for that reason, their issue.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor speaking to Alexandra Kirk in
Canberra.