Tony Abbott refuses to deny Aus Govt bribed People Smugglers!
An international law expert says that the Abbott Govt could be accused of people smuggling if it is proven they paid the crew of an asylum-seeker boat to return to Indonesia.
On Friday, shocking allegations emerged that Australian Navy personnel handed wads of cash totalling $US30,000 to six crew members who were transporting 65 asylum seekers on the condition that they returned to Indonesian waters.
Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott, did not deny the claims when asked about the allegations on Friday.
Professor of international law at the Australian National University, Don Rothwell, says if proven the activity could be tantamount to “people smuggling” under current regional protocols.
“People smuggling is defined with the protocol and to that end the provision of monies to people who are engaged in people-smuggling activities to take persons from a place on the high seas to another place, such as Indonesia, is clearly a people smuggling-type activity,” he told The Gutter Trash.
He said the claims also raised questions because Australia was a party to the 2000 protocol to disrupt people smuggling.
Rothwell said a lot would depend on how Australia’s regional partners responded to the allegations.
The Indonesian government appeared to be taking them seriously, he said.
“We’ll no doubt hear from Indonesia in the future about this.”
Abbott did not deny the allegations in a radio interview and said that officials were being “incredibly creative” in adhering to the Govt’s policy to turn back boats.
“What we do is stop the boats by hook or by crook,” Abbott said.
“We have stopped the trade and we will do what we have to do to ensure that it stays stopped.”
He repeatedly declined to confirm whether Australia was investigating the claims.
The finance minister Mathias Cormann said the allegation was “not an accurate reflection” of what was happening.
“The prime minister has essentially stuck to his very long-standing practice of not to provide a running commentary on operational matters,” he said.
“He didn’t confirm or deny, he didn’t make comment one way or the other. He certainly didn’t indicate that payments have been made.”
Labor has called on Abbott to emphatically deny Customs paid people smugglers to turn back asylum seeker boats.
The opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles said Abbott’s refusal to deny the practice had left the door wide open to the idea the government was handing wads of taxpayer’s cash to smugglers.
“Really it leaves one with the only possible assumption that that may well have been exactly what happened.”