The boat, carrying 54 passengers and two crew, was intercepted by the navy yesterday before it reached Australian waters.
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the government\’s changes to border protection – which gave asylum seekers an expectation they would be released into the community before their refugee applications were processed – was responsible for the increase in boat arrivals. Latest boatload Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus says the people from the boat have voluntarily transferred to HMAS Albany and will be taken to Christmas Island, where they\’ll undergo health, security and other checks. The interception came as another boatload of asylum seekers were taken ashore on Christmas Island. That boat, carrying 32 Sri Lankan men, was intercepted near Barrow Island, off the West Australian coast, on Wednesday. It was escorted to Christmas Island by a navy vessel and arrived as scheduled at 8.20am local time on Saturday, a Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman said. The seventh boat to arrive in Australian waters this year, it was intercepted less than a week after a vessel carrying 47 asylum seekers and two crew exploded, killing five Afghans and injuring dozens of others, on April 16. Influx caused by changes to laws: Bishop Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the government was responsible for the influx. “There\’s new direct evidence that the government\’s softening stance has encouraged the people smugglers which has led to the sharp rise in the number of boat arrivals,” she told AAP on Saturday. “This latest boat arrival is further evidence that the government\’s border protection policies have failed. “The government must now admit that it has got it wrong on border protection. “Boats are arriving at an increasing rate and the government is doing absolutely nothing to prevent the escalation in the people smuggling trade.” But Mr Debus said the successful interception demonstrated the effectiveness of Border Protection Command\’s surveillance. “Our surveillance is strong and targeted and officers from Customs and Border Protection and the Royal Australian Navy are working together to protect Australia from unauthorised arrivals. “The Australian government is committed to strong border security arrangements and will continue to deal effectively and appropriately with people smugglers.” Call to release intelligence reports Ms Bishop again called on the government to release intelligence reports from the Australian Federal Police and defence on border protection. “If the government doesn\’t know how to solve the problem, it should release all the intelligence reports it has received, including the Australian Federal Police report which claimed the government\’s changes in policy had again made Australia a target for people smugglers,” she said. A spokeswoman for Mr Debus said it wasn\’t government practice to discuss intelligence reports. “It\’s a matter of longstanding practice that governments don\’t release or discuss intelligence briefs,” she said. “It was the case under the previous government as well.” Ms Bishop declined to say whether the coalition supported the reintroduction of the Howard government\’s temporary protection visas for asylum seekers. “Do you really think the people smugglers in Indonesia are watching what the coalition are saying when we won\’t face another election for 18 months?” Ms Bishop said. The Rudd government abolished the Pacific Solution approach soon after coming to office in 2007, where asylum seekers were processed at Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.