Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rudd stands by asylum-seeker deal after call to PNG leader O'Neill

From: The Australian

August 17, 2013


KEVIN Rudd has declared his Papua New Guinea asylum-seeker policy stands after a phone call with his PNG counterpart Peter O'Neill this morning.

The Prime Minister called Mr O'Neill after the PNG leader was reported as casting doubt on key elements of the policy.
Mr O'Neill had said there was no agreement for PNG to re-settle genuine asylum-seekers after processing on Manus Island and that many would end up in Australia.
Tony Abbott seized on Mr O'Neill's apparent denial of the central planks of Labor's policy, accusing Mr Rudd of being prepared to say anything to get elected.
Speaking in Western Australia, the Opposition Leader said Mr O'Neill had ``flatly contradicted'' Mr Rudd's declaration that PNG would settle all asylum-seekers deemed to be refugees and that none would make it to Australia.
``You just can't trust this prime minister,'' Mr Abbott said during a visit to the seat of Hasluck, held by Liberal MP Ken Wyatt.
Mr Rudd today reaffirmed that Labor's policy was that no-one who arrived by boat in Australia without a visa would be settled in Australia.
It is understood the two leaders spoke by phone again this morning.
``Our policy is clear cut,'' Mr Rudd said.
He said the policy was supported by both the governments of Australia and PNG.
``I draw your attention to the regional resettlement arrangement which says persons found to be refugees will be settled in PNG and other participating regional states, including Pacific Island states.
``That what we agreed to. That's what we support now. That support continues to the present and that has been confirmed as late as today.''
He said Australia and PNG had spent more than a month negotiating the detail of the agreement.
And the government of PNG had confirmed again today that it stood by the agreement.
Earlier Mr O'Neill had said PNG would work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to engage with other countries willing to take part in resettling those refugees, Mr O'Neill said.
``That includes Australia, New Zealand and all the other countries who are signatories to the UN conventions on refugees.''
Mr O'Neill said he believed Australia had an annual quota to settle about 20,000 refugees.
``Under that process, they will get some and New Zealand has indicated they would take some.''
Mr Rudd has insisted there is ``one simple principle'' in his new regime that all asylum-seekers arriving by boat would be diverted to PNG and settled there if found to be genuine refugees.
Mr Abbott said Mr O'Neill's comments showed that Mr Rudd had broken the trust of voters.
``Prime Minister Peter O'Neill of PNG has flatly contradicted Mr Rudd on the PNG arrangements,'' Mr Abbott said.
``Many of those who go to PNG will ultimately have to come to Australia. You just can't trust this Prime Minister. You just can't trust this Prime Minister.
``He will say anything if he thinks it's going to get him a headline tomorrow.
``But when you look at the fine print, when you listen to people actually explain what it all means, it turns out to be very very different from what the Prime Minister said.''
Mr O'Neill also derided federal opposition claims that refugees would seek to use PNG as a pathway to Australia.
``It is certainly an overreaction,'' he said.

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