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Govt's asylum seeker offer diabolical: Opposi -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull launched a stinging attack on the
Government today over the offer it has made to the Sri Lankans on board the Oceanic Viking.

The Immigration Minister Chris Evans has confirmed that the Government offered to fast-track asylum
assessment of all the 78 Sri Lankans on board the ship on the condition that they get off in

Mr Turnbull says it sends a shocking signal to others and the former immigration minister Philip
Ruddock says it's tantamount to a reward for people who are putting Australia under duress.

In Canberra, Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: It's day 25 for those on board the customs boat which is moored in Indonesian waters.

In an attempt to end the stand-off, the Immigration Minister Chris Evans has confirmed Australia's
offered a special deal to get the 78 asylum seekers off the Oceanic Viking.

The Minister says those already found to be genuine asylum seekers will be resettled within six
weeks, conditional on them stepping off in Indonesia.

CHRIS EVANS: We intend honouring that commitment. If that's part of any final settlement with those
on the boat that gets them to disembark and we're quite confident we can deliver on that and that
where that resettlement will occur will depend on the full interviews and the assessment by the
UNHCR as to where best they'll be referred.

But that may well include a range of countries. That'll be determined once we know better where
their connections are.

SABRA LANE: Also in the letter of offer given to Sri Lankans last week, the Government says those
on board the boat who've not yet claimed asylum and lodge a claim, will have their refugee
applications processed within 12 weeks of leaving the Oceanic Viking.

Australia's also offered to resettle those found to be genuine refugees. But the Immigration
Minister stresses that doesn't mean all the Sri Lankans will be resettled here.

CHRIS EVANS: We have traditionally taken the large part of the load of resettlement out of
Indonesia. About a third of those resettled so far out of Indonesia have come to Australia. But
Canada, New Zealand, France, USA, Denmark have all taken some.

And as part of those UNHCR processes people will be referred, but I would expect obviously that we
will be taking a fair share of the load.

SABRA LANE: The former immigration minister Philip Ruddock.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: When you try to entice them off by offering them better outcomes than others that
are waiting patiently for refugee places I think it has a potential to send the very worst possible

SABRA LANE: Mr Ruddock told ABC-2 Breakfast that the offer's akin to rewarding bad behaviour.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: What you have now is a situation, a diabolical situation quite frankly, where the
Government is fuelling expectations that if you put us under duress, if you make a voyage to
Australia, you will get a better outcome than if you wait your turn, and particularly if you are a
refugee in need of resettlement.

SABRA LANE: Mr Turnbull wouldn't offer a solution to the crisis, as he says the Government's
refused to brief the Opposition and its customs spokeswoman Susan Lee about the circumstances of
the Oceanic Viking.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Susan and I have both asked the Government for a briefing on the Oceanic Viking
situation and they've refused to give us one. So we're not going to provide advice to the
Government about what they should do.

SABRA LANE: Dr Raga Ragavan is the immediate past-president and a current council member of the
Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations.

RAGA RAGAVAN: We would rather come any processing as soon as possible even if it could be done in
the boat and then brought them to a country which is willing to take them and they are prepared to

SABRA LANE: Dr Ragavan says those on the boat don't want to go to Indonesia, as the country's not a
signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees.

RAGA RAGAVAN: They have suffered enough and there's no need for them to be in detention.

SABRA LANE: Some politicians say that this is tantamount to rewarding duress.

RAGA RAGAVAN: Not really. In fact you know we need to look at what is duress. We are playing with
people's lives. We need to be more human and process them and if they are found to be genuine
refugees they should be dealt accordingly.

SABRA LANE: The Opposition says that this would send a terrible signal to the region and may prompt
other people to try the same tactic.

RAGA RAGAVAN: What they need to realise is these people have been processed in a more.. we
understand that most of the people have been processed by UNHCR and the countries which are
supposed to be helping in taking them into are not doing them in time.

So this is giving an opportunity for all these people smugglers and things like that to exploit the
situation. This is also a lesson for the countries for when they are delaying picking people who
have been found to be genuine refugees, people are going to short circuit the system.

SABRA LANE: On Sky News, the Foreign Minister Stephen Smith confirmed the Federal Government is
looking to allow more Sri Lankans to emigrate to Australia through existing programs. Mr Smith says
he discussed the option with the Sri Lankan Government during his trip to the country last Monday.

STEPHEN SMITH: We haven't gone into any great detail but we have made the point to Sri Lanka that
it is worthwhile Australia and Sri Lanka having a conversation about whether within our ordinary
annual migration program we can do things which will undercut the attractiveness of the people
smugglers so that we don't have Sri Lankans at risk on the high seas which of course was the start
of the Oceanic Viking matter.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, ending that report by Sabra Lane.