Scott Morrison has violated his own rule against commenting on “matters on the water”, confirming that an asylum-seeking boat off Sri Lanka has been intercepted.
In a last ditch appeal to voters on election day, Morrison told Australians that they “need to vote liberals and citizens” to stay there to prevent future boats, stopping and returning boats near Labor. Despite having a uniform policy for therefore.
On Saturday voters reported receiving text messages from the NSW Liberals, warning them of the “illegal boat” and urging them to “preserve our borders by voting Liberals today”.
A spokesman for the NSW Liberals confirmed that the party had sent the text, “As Australians go to vote today, it is important that they are informed of the choice before them”.
On Saturday the Australian Border Force said “a ship has been intercepted in a possible attempt to illegally enter Australia from Sri Lanka”.
“The policy of the Australian Government remains unchanged,” it said in a statement. “We will stop any vessel seeking to illegally reach Australia and return people on board safely to their country of departure or origin.”
Morrison confirmed the intercept after voting at Lilly Pilly Public School on Saturday afternoon.
“That ship has been stopped in accordance with government policies and they are following those normal protocols,” Morrison told reporters.
“That’s all I can say. I’m here to stop this boat, but for me to be there to stop those coming from here, you have to vote for Liberal and National today.”
“In the interest of complete transparency in the middle of the election campaign, it was advised to the Labor Party.”
Morrison was repeatedly challenged that he had commented on the matter “on-water”, something he refused to do as immigration minister, but refused to respond to interference.
In a separate press conference, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said there were two boats, one was intercepted by the Sri Lankan Navy for 40 people and the other was intercepted “near Christmas Island” by the ABF.
“Those ventures indicate very clearly what risks a Labor government takes to our borders,” she told reporters. “It’s not intimidating, it’s reality.”
Earlier, the Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent, Karen Middleton, noted that the Australian had reported that “a boat was detected and intercepted by the Sri Lankan Navy on its way to Australia, and of course, the government”. saying ‘Look, we told you the boats. There’s a problem'”.
Middleton told ABC that a member of the Sri Lankan Australian community had contacted him on 26 April saying two boats were on the way.
“He said he had a friend in Colombo who had seen people being put on boats by Sri Lankan police,” Middleton said.
“He alleged that the Sri Lankan authorities had facilitated the boat, and he said it was designed as an election stunt to make it come just before the election.”
Middleton said she was unable to verify the claim.
As immigration minister, Morrison and ABF officials declined to comment on water matters.
Even with basic questions about whether the boats had arrived in Australia or were intercepted, Morrison claimed that he would update only if there were “significant incidents regarding maritime operations at sea, particularly Where life at sea is protected”.
But the practice has been violated by the Coalition before, including in August 2016, three months before the federal election, when Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed that the Australian government had attempted to ferry six Sri Lankans to Australia by boat. did.
On Friday, Morrison was asked if he could sympathize with the Murugappan family and allow them to return to Biloela, and used the opportunity to warn voters about labor and boats.
Morrison said that granting visas was like writing “a prospectus for people smugglers” and that Labor’s election would “return all terror” – despite the fact that offshore detentions, boat turnbacks and third-country resettlement were bipartisan. is support.
The only difference in policy is that Labor will end temporary protection visas for refugees and asylum seekers who are already in Australia, which is too late to stop.
The ABF statement said “measures and safeguards are in place to enable actions and activities in accordance with Australia’s obligations under Australian domestic law and international law”.
“The overriding priority for all agencies involved in Operation Sovereign Borders is the safety of all persons involved, including potential illegal immigrants and vessel crew, as well as Australian personnel.”
“In line with long-standing practice, we will not comment further.”