Opposition Leader Tony Abbott
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott

Bowen labels asylum seeker disussion a 'cop-out'

WHILE people smuggling was discussed during a meeting between Indonesian leaders and Coalition heavyweights on Monday, the conservative "turn back the boats" policy did not rate a mention.

The lack of discussion on the policy - a key point of difference on asylum seekers between the Coalition and Labor - was seized on by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, labelling it a "cop-out" on Tuesday.

Mr Bowen declared Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was a "lion in Canberra and a mouse in Indonesia", after Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa admitted the policy was not discussed.

But Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the people smuggling issue was discussed, but refused to go into detail.

He said the meetings presented an unprecedented and invaluable chance for the Coalition to talk shop with Indonesia on people smuggling.

"This will be critical to working in partnership with our friends in Indonesia to address people smuggling if the Coalition is elected," he said.

The policy was previously criticised by Indonesian leaders, including Mr Natalegawa, as a responsive policy which did not tackle the causes behind people smuggling and illegal immigrants.

The meetings came after a weekend during which some 525 more asylum seekers were intercepted by merchant and Border Protection ships in Australian waters.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon announced the government would create an independent review process for legitimate asylum seekers not granted a permanent visa after adverse ASIO security assessments.

The process was announced after a High Court decision on a similar case against the crown was handed down in a refugee's favour last week.

As part of the new review process, recommendations will be made to the Director-General of Security and report the findings to the AG, Immigration Minister and Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

"There will also be a regular 12-month periodic review of adverse security assessments for refugees in immigration detention," Ms Roxon said on Tuesday.

"The government takes both national security and its international obligations to refugees seriously.

"Independent review will not lower the bar for assessing a refugee's risk to Australia's national security, but will provide greater openness and accountability in the security assessment process."



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