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Abbott hangs up the infamous boat phone

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5 October 2011


Tony Abbott has disconnected his controversial ‘boat phone’ after faltering over the facts of his own towing back the boats policy on Melbourne radio this morning, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, said today.

Mr Bowen said Tony Abbott, an experienced flip-flopper, was now getting in the habit of walking away from his own policies.

“We know that Mr Abbott has walked away from offshore processing and signalled the green light to people smugglers, but now it seems he has hung up his precious boat phone as well,” Mr Bowen said.

“During the election campaign in August 2010, Mr Abbott said he would personally make any decision to turn around boats. He said it would be ‘a prime ministerial decision’.

“But when quizzed about tow-backs on Melbourne Talk Radio today by Steve Price, Mr Abbott put the boat phone on hold and showed he had no knowledge about how his own policy would work.”

This is what Mr Abbott said on MTR today when asked how tow-backs worked in practice:

“Um, well, that’s the kind of operational question that would have to be worked out by the commander on the spot. I’m not going to set myself up as an expert, but what’s been done in the past can under the right conditions be done again in the future.”

And when prompted further about the specifics of intercepting boats:

“Well, as I said Steve, I’m not going to get into the precise operational details, because that would be a matter for the commanders on the spot, but it’s been done in the past, successfully done in the past and what was done in the past can be done again in the future.” Mr Bowen said this further underlined Tony Abbott and the Coalition’s hypocrisy on border protection issues

“We already knew that towing back the boats was a dangerous and unworkable policy, but now Mr Abbott has finally disconnected the boat phone,” he said.

“Mr Abbott’s policy remains the height of hypocrisy. He will happily tow back boats to Indonesia - not a Refugee Convention signatory - without protections, yet he opposes the Malaysia Arrangement because that country is not a signatory.”

“Tony Abbott will clearly say anything and do anything when it’s in his own political interest.” Media Contacts: Bill Kyriakopoulos 0400 510 802 / Laura Stevens 0432 833 769