Election 2016: Peter Dutton, Malcolm Turnbull confirm Vietnam asylum seeker boat turn-back

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PHOTO: The asylum seeker boat from Vietnam was detected at the beginning of June. (Supplied)

By political reporter Jane Norman
Updated 22 Jun 2016, 3:18pm

Asylum seeker boat returned to Vietnam by Australia

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton have held separate press conferences to confirm a group of 21 asylum seekers has been returned to Vietnam, in the Coalition’s 28th boat turn-back operation.

Key points:

Boat was intercepted and occupants processed at sea in early June
Dutton says asylum seekers were found to not be owed protection
Says media can be briefed on turn-backs “once it’s operationally possible to do so”

Mr Dutton said the “unseaworthy” boat was picked up at the beginning of June and the passengers flown home after their claims for protection were rejected.

“They claimed that they were wanting protection, it was found that they were not owed protection and they were returned to Vietnam,” he said.

The Immigration Minister’s office has provided a grainy image of the boat.

Mr Turnbull confirmed authorities were aware of another asylum seeker boat that had left Aceh in Indonesia and said it was evidence that people smugglers were continuing to test the Coalition’s “steely” resolve.

“The challenge of people smuggling is greater than it has ever been,” he said.

“The people smugglers test us … they know where we stand.

“Imagine what they will do to a Labor government.”

Mr Dutton continued the attack, warning voters that Labor was “divided” over border protection.

“People smugglers in Indonesia are watching very closely and they believe if there’s a change of government on July 2, the people smugglers will be back in business and people will be back on boats coming to our country,” he said.

Coalition ‘should be ashamed’ for smuggling message: Shorten

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has flatly rejected the claim, accusing Mr Turnbull and Mr Dutton of resorting to desperate, shameful tactics.

“You have to love the Liberal Party central headquarters,” he said.

“It is the break-glass issue.

“They should be ashamed of themselves, sending out a signal to people smugglers that there is a lack of national will to deter people smugglers.”

The Coalition issues monthly updates on Operation Sovereign Borders but it rarely releases information about what it describes as on-water operations.

The minister said he was able to confirm the latest turn-back because the asylum seekers had been safely returned to Vietnam, while the Prime Minister said it was important to get the message out to people smugglers and their would-be passengers.

“This is a critical part of our communication,” Mr Turnbull said.

“It is important that their messaging, which is obviously designed to get people on boats, is countered by the facts of our steely resolve to stop them from putting peoples’ lives at risk and challenging the sovereignty of our borders.”

Both parties’ policies are virtually identical, although Labor has vowed to abolish Temporary Protection Visas if it wins Government.

First published on ABC, 22/06/2016