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Asylum issue puts minister under pressure

Asylum issue puts minister under pressure article image
Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith has denied that payments proposed to Indonesia for taking on asylum seekers is 'bounty' for doing the dirty work. The funds given by Australia to Indonesia will be used to assist with the cost of detention, processing and settlement of refugees, he said: "I don't think we should categorise that as, in any way, a per diem or a bounty or any such pejorative terms." Unconfirmed reports suggesting that asylum seekers deliberately drilled holes in their boat so they could be rescued by Australia has put the foreign minister under further pressure, with Smith having to state that there has been no evidence to support speculation. "I'm not leaping to conclusions, I'm not making any judgements, and I don't think other people should," he said, as the government awaits an official report from Customs officials and the Navy. Opposition immigration spokesperson Sharman Stone said the situation seemed like a set-up organised by people smugglers and criticised the government for their handling of the issue, saying the previous Howard Government had it right. "When we came out of government into opposition our border security measures were intact, we had no boat people, asylum seeker, people smuggler issues," she said. "The whole stream of border protection invasions, if you like, through smugglers were not there."

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