Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd John Gass

No major announcements made on asylum seeker issue

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd returns to Australia having made little progress on asylum seekers during high level talks in Papua New Guinea.

Mr Rudd met with PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill on Monday, to talk trade, immigration and people smuggling.

But apart from affirming talks and work on Manus Island would continue, no major announcements were made.

Mr Rudd said asylum seekers remained a regional issue, and thanked PNG for its co-operation on Manus Island.

While he said the operations would continue, neither Mr Rudd nor Mr O'Neill indicated any changes, other than building the facility on Manus Island, were in the pipeline.

Mr Rudd said it was a challenge he would not shy away from, and as circumstances changed, Australia would adjust, but did not outline any policy changes at this stage.

"I will not shirk my responsibilities to deal with the ongoing challenge of people smuggling, as it affects Australia, as it affects the wider region," he said.

"That's why I have been very frank about the fact that we will continue our discussions with regional governments, in Indonesia, here in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere across the region, on a common regional response."

Mr O'Neill said it had always been a regional effort, and due to the ongoing flow of illegal immigrations, the processing centre was still needed.

But Shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Sydney that Mr Rudd was all talk, labelling the government's policy a "soft touch".

He said Mr Rudd could not talk his way out of the problem, indicating a return to the Coalition's 'turn back the boats' policy was needed, despite that policy resulting in few successful such operations.


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