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Clear direction: New Labor government turns back its first boat

Politics

Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles has confirmed the new Albanese government has turned back its first asylum seeker boat.

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Marles also labelled the Morrison government’s decision to text voters on election day about a boat that had been intercepted near Christmas Island as a “disgrace” which made the nation “less safe”.

An Australian Border Force spokesman said Operation Sovereign Borders safely returned the boat back to Sri Lanka on Tuesday after it had been intercepted on Saturday.

“The direction to me, by the acting prime minister was clear – this government remains committed to Operation Sovereign Borders, and to the protection of lives at sea,”

Commander of the Joint Agency Task Force Operation Sovereign Borders Rear Admiral Justin Jones said.

Marles said Labor’s policy on boat turnbacks had not changed since 2015, and slammed the former Morrison government’s decision to release a press release about the intercept.

“I think what we saw on Saturday was a disgrace,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.

“And it was a real low point in the way in which the former government engaged in politicising national security.

“This should never have been in the public domain. The text that was sent out by the Liberal Party in that moment made our country less safe, made our borders less secure.”

Marles said he had requested the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs to report back to the government on the circumstances of the information being made public on election day, describing it as “not routine”.

“What’s really clear is that the former Liberal government was far more interested in its own political interests than in the national interest,” he said.

“It sought to create division where there was none. Everyone knew that there was bipartisanship in relation to maintaining strong borders and that is a national asset.

“But what that government did was seek to undermine that for its own political purposes.”

The acting prime minister vowed the Albanese government would not use matters of national security for “political gain” and would act in the national interest.

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