Former prime minister Scott Morrison ordered an urgent asylum seeker boat alert on election day in a ‘desperate’ last bid to hurt Labor.
When the Coalition came to office in September 2013, Mr Morrison as a new immigration minister ordered that unauthorised maritime arrivals would no longer be publicly announced.
But on Saturday, that protocol he introduced was politically abandoned as Mr Morrison unsuccessfully tried to win a fourth, consecutive term for the Liberal Party.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed his predecessor contacted him on election day with news of the boat arrival off Christmas Island containing Sri Lankan asylum seekers.
‘There was nothing normal about the protocols that were not observed here,’ he told ABC Radio AM presenter Sabra Lane.
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Former prime minister Scott Morrison ordered an urgent asylum seeker boat alert on election day in a ‘desperate’ last bid to hurt Labor (he is pictured conceding defeat on Saturday hours later)
An unsolicited text message was sent to residents urging them to vote Liberal
‘We had a circumstance whereby the prime minister’s office contacted my office in the middle of Saturday, and we indicated it would be entirely inappropriate for this event to be politicised.
‘It’s a clear breach of the caretaker conventions.’
Text messages were also sent out to voters in marginal seats on election day implying that only the Coalition could be trusted on border security.
‘Aust Border Force has intercepted an illegal boat trying to reach Aus. Keep our borders secure by voting Liberal today,’ it said.
Mr Albanese described those tactics as ‘desperate’.
‘This was a decision made by Scott Morrison in a desperate attempt to run a last minute scare campaign,’ he said.
‘It was extraordinary that this statement was made to enable those text messages to be sent to people.’
The Prime Minister on Friday announced an inquiry would be held into the breaking of caretaker conventions, accusing his predecessor of an ‘entire abuse of proper processes’.
‘A disgraceful act from a government which was prepared to politicise everything but solve nothing,’ Mr Albanese said.
When Labor took office on Monday Richard Marles, as Acting Prime Minister, ordered Australian Border Force to turn back that asylum seeker boat intercepted on election day.
When the Coalition came to office in September 2013, Mr Morrison as a new immigration minister ordered that unauthorised maritime arrivals would no longer be publicly announced (pictured are Rohingya Muslims trying to reach Indonesia)
‘They have been returned to Sri Lanka, and that has happened in a very ordinary and routine way,’ Mr Marles told Sky News.
‘And people-smugglers out there should know that very clearly; there will be no change under this government, and Australia retains its strong border stance.’
The Greens described that policy as ‘shameful’, after the hard-left party won former Labor PM Kevin Rudd’s old inner-Brisbane seat of Griffith, defeating frontbencher Terri Butler.
As that turnback occurred, Mr Albanese was in Tokyo meeting US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese PM Fumio Kishida as part of the Quad dialogue.
During the election campaign on April 14, Mr Albanese declared offshore detention was unnecessary, even though that is Labor Party policy.
‘We’ll turn boats back. Turning boats back means that you don’t need offshore detention,’ he told reporters at Cessnock.
His election campaign media conference position against offshore processing contradicted Labor’s 2021 national platform.
‘To support Australia’s strong border security regime, Labor will maintain an architecture of excised offshore places,’ it said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (pictured with cavoodle Toto) confirmed his predecessor contacted him on election day with news of the boat arrival off Christmas Island containing Sri Lankan asylum seekers
In July 2015, Mr Albanese from the party’s Left faction told the ABC’s Insiders program he didn’t personally support the idea of turning back asylum seek boats following a debate at Labor’s National Conference.
‘Different people took different positions and that was the issue of turnbacks,’ he said.
‘For me, that was something that I couldn’t support but in the context of the policy, I said earlier on in the week that you could be tough on people smugglers without being weak on humanity.’
In December 2010, at least 50 people died when an asylum seeker boat sunk off the coast of Christmas Island.
At the time Mr Morrison, who was the Opposition spokesman on immigration, questioned why taxpayers needed to fund asylum seekers travelling to the funerals of their loved ones in other parts of Australia.
The deceased were among the 1,200 asylum seekers who drowned between December 2007 and September 2013, when Labor was last in power.
Mr Albanese was deputy prime minister in 2013 under Mr Rudd when he established an offshore detention centre at Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
During his first stint as prime minister, Mr Rudd in 2008 dismantled his Liberal predecessor John Howard’s Pacific Solution where the Navy intercepted unauthorised asylum seeker boats and took them to offshore centres in Nauru and Manus Island.
Under Labor’s watch when it was last in government, 50,000 asylum seekers arrived on 800 boats between late 2007 and 2013.
This slowed to a trickle when the Coalition came to power.
Mr Morrison stopped the former department of immigration and border protection from publishing media alerts every time an illegal boat arrived in Australian waters.