OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott was channelling former prime John Howard as he announced more details of the Coalition's border protection policy, which includes plans to buy back fishing boats in Indonesia before they are sold to people smugglers.
Mr Abbott was in Darwin to reveal details of the $420 million Regional Deterrence Framework, a "common sense" measure designed to stop asylum-seekers travelling by boat through the region.
He said a "single-minded focus on deterrence" was the only way to stop asylum-seekers travelling to Australia by boat, at one point referring to asylum-seekers as "cargo".
"This is our country and we will decide who comes here," Mr Abbott said in an almost carbon copy of the language Mr Howard made famous during the 2001 election campaign.
A Coalition government would spend $20 million engaging Indonesian villages to disrupt people smuggling operations, including a capped boat buy-back scheme and paying cash rewards to impoverished Indonesians who provide vital intelligence.
Mr Abbott would not be drawn on details for the boat buy-backs or bounty payments, saying it would be "left to the discretion of our people on the ground" working with Indonesian authorities.
"It makes a lot more sense to pay a few thousand dollars in Indonesia rather than spend $12 million once these boats bring their cargo to Australia," Mr Abbott said.
"I'm not going to put a figure on it. This is money that we will make available to be sensibly deployed by people on the ground who are determined to stop the boats far more effectively than has happened now.
Not surprisingly, a string of senior Labor figures lined up to ridicule the policy, describing it as "crazy" and "mad".
Immigration Minister Tony Burke criticised a number of elements of the policy, particularly the boat buy-back scheme.
"Of all the mad ideas I've heard in immigration, I think boat buy-back wins," Mr Burke said.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd mocked THE plan, describing it as "genuinely interesting".
"Mr Abbott's plan to have ... a three-star general sitting at the end of a jetty with a cheque book to buy back fishing boats in Indonesia is about as irresponsible as his plan for a paid parental leave scheme with gives $75,000 to millionaires," Mr Rudd said.
And Bill Shorten clumsily referred to the policy as a "maritime version of cash for clunkers".
Of course, cash for clunkers was the much derided Labor policy Julia Gillard took to the 2010 federal election and later dumped. THE PLAN
If elected, the Coalition will:
Provide $67m to support joint operations with Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia to disrupt people smuggling through international deployment of specialist Australian Federal Police officers.
Implement a $20m program to engage and enlist Indonesian villages to support people smuggling disruption, including a capped boat buy-back scheme.
Appoint a special envoy for Operation Sovereign Borders to focus on facilitating international cooperation on the Regional Deterrence Framework.
Seek to establish transit zones within the region to facilitate the transfer of asylum-seekers to offshore processing facilities, preventing entry to Australia.
Invest $27m to prevent drowning at sea through increased aerial surveillance and offer up to $71m to boost search and rescue response capability of Indonesian authorities within their search and rescue zone.
Spend $198m supplementing Australia's border protection fleet with commercially leased vessels to support patrol operations including offshore processing transfers.
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