PM says Dutton in a ‘cheer squad’ for people smugglers

The Prime Minister has accused Opposition Leader Peter Dutton of being in a “cheer squad” for people smugglers as a war of words continues following the arrival of a boat carrying asylum seekers in remote Western Australia.

The group of men, reportedly from Pakistan and Bangladesh, were found on Friday near an Indigenous community close to the former West Australian church mission of Beagle Bay.

The men have since been flown to an offshore detention centre on the Pacific island of Nauru.

Dutton has used the arrivals to criticise the Albanese government’s commitment to national security.

Albanese accused Dutton of politicising the situation on Sunday.

“Peter Dutton needs to think very carefully about the role that he is playing, and I think it’s there for all to see whether he’s interested in the national interest, or interested in just playing politics,” he said.

“The only person who’s out there on a cheer squad is Peter Dutton and he needs to explain how they think that the comments that he has made talking Australia down are appropriate,” he added.

On Monday, Abul Rizvi, a former deputy secretary of the Immigration Department, warned politicians to be careful with their rhetoric saying it could lead to more illegal boat arrivals.

“If people smugglers are able to convince potential people who may wish to come to Australia by boat, that the difference in the rhetoric is something they can take advantage of … we may if that happens, see a rise in boats,” Rizvi told ABC radio.

Also Monday, Albanese described people smuggling as an ‘evil trade’.

“They [people smugglers] will constantly try to change and what we will do is constantly be vigilant and ensure that the message is very firmly sent … People who arrive by boat, get sent offshore,” he told reporters in Perth on Monday.

In response to accusations he was jeopardising national security, Dutton, who was home affairs minister in the previous government from 2017 to 2022, said Labor, not his comments, was enticing people smugglers.

“Nobody’s politicising the issue. We’re pointing out the fact the government is making significant errors here,” he told Sunrise on Monday.

Rizvi said while he had not seen any evidence of a reduction in resourcing for the Australian Border Force, more information was needed.

“The statistics and the allocation of resources in this space is not entirely transparent and it would be good if the government were to explain what has happened in terms of resourcing,” he said.

Albanese confirmed he spoke with Operation Sovereign Borders commander Rear Admiral Brett Sonter on Sunday after three groups of boat arrivals had been found.

The commander also cautioned against politicising the boat arrivals.

Dutton said the government needed to explain how many boats had arrived and how they were able to evade detection.

– with AAP

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