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 Radio National’s Sabra Lane.
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 at Kirribilli House in Sydney after removalists arrived)
‘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 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.’
When Labor took office on Monday Richard Marles, as Acting Prime Minister, ordered Australian Border Force to proceed with the asylum-seeker ‘take-back procedure’ of the 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 is an asylum seeker boat intercepted in August 2012)
‘They have been returned to Sri Lanka, and that has happened in a very ordinary and routine way,’ he 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.
Mr Albanese has announced an inquiry would be held into the breaking of caretaker conventions accusing his predecessor of an ‘entire abuse of proper processes’.
During the election campaign, Mr Albanese in April declared offshore detention is 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 in the Labor-held seat of Hunter.
The Opposition Leader’s media conference position against offshore processing contradicted Labor’s 2021 national platform.
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
‘To support Australia’s strong border security regime, Labor will maintain an architecture of excised offshore places,’ it said.
In 2019, 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.
‘Different people took different positions and that was the issue of turn backs,’ 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.
They were among the 1,200 asylum seekers who drowned between December 2007 and September 2013, when Labor was last in power.