JONATHAN SWAN | Sydney Morning Herald
ANY ASYLUM SEEKER who arrives by boat without a visa will have no chance of being resettled in Australia as a refugee, Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has announced.
Mr Rudd declared his much-anticipated asylum seeker policy, with the major change being a new resettlement arrangement between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
At a Brisbane press conference, flanked by PNG prime minister Peter O'Neill and Australian immigration minister Tony Burke, Mr Rudd declared he would "combat the scourge of people smuggling".
''Today we're announcing a new resettlement arrangement between Australia and Papua New Guinea. I understand this is a very hard-line decision,'' Mr Rudd said.
In the strongest line a modern Labor prime minister has taken against people smugglers, Mr Rudd said: ''As of today asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.''
Under the new arrangement signed with PNG – the Regional Settlement Arrangement - unauthorised arrivals will be sent to PNG for assessment and if found to be a refugee will be settled there.
''Australians have had enough of seeing people drowning in the waters to our north,'' Mr Rudd said. ''Our country has had enough of people smugglers exploiting asylum seekers and seeing them drown on the high seas.''
With the changes, regional processing arrangements in PNG will be significantly expanded and people will be sent to Manus Island as soon as health checks are complete and appropriate accommodation is identified.
PNG officials will assess their claims on Manus Island. Mr Rudd said there would be no cap on the number of people who can be transferred to PNG. In exchange for PNG receiving asylum seekers, the Australian government woul help with the redevelopment of the major referral hospital in Lae and its long-term management needs.
''We've agreed to fund 50/50 the reform of Papua New Guinea university sector,'' Mr Rudd said.
He did not say how much his changes to asylum seeker policy would cost. But he said it would be ''budget neutral'' and that Finance Minister Penny Wong would announce the costs in ''due course''.
''What we're seeking to do . . . is to send a message to people smugglers around the world that the business model is basically undermined,'' Mr Rudd said. ''This is a clear change in strategic direction.''