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Sydney protesters denounce Rudd plan to dump Australian asylum problem on PNG

Sydney asylum seekers protest

A Sydney protest today over Australia’s new “deny asylum” policy over boat migrants from the Asia-Pacific region. Image: Peter Boyle/Socialist Action

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Peter Boyle in Sydney

About 700 people gathered outside the Sydney Town Hall today in a quickfire protest against Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s newly announced policy of denying asylum in Australia to all refugees arriving unofficially by boat.

Refugees will now either be returned home, to a third country or settled permanently in Papua New Guinea.

The protesters sat down in George St, blocking a major city intersection while several protest speeches were made.

Another demonstration is planned for next Saturday.

ABC radio reports that the Federal government is running advertisements in newspapers across Australia in an attempt to promote its new plan to discourage asylum seeker boats coming to Australia.

Rudd yesterday confirmed a deal that would see asylum seekers sent to Papua New Guinea for assessment and – if they are found to be refugees – resettlement.

The plan, which Rudd jointly announced with PNG’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in Brisbane, will be backed up by an advertising blitz at home and in the region.

Advertisement campaign
Advertisements are running in newspapers across the country today and the ABC understands the ads will also be placed in papers in the Asia-Pacific region.

Two radio advertisements have also been produced, telling asylum seekers that “the people smugglers’ guarantee is worthless” and warning them that they are “buying a ticket to another country”.

Rudd has also released a video address with a stern message for people smugglers.

“Your business model is over,” he said.

“People who come by boat now have no prospect of being resettled in Australia. The rules have changed.”

Rudd says the new deal, which could face legal challenges, may not stop people coming to Australia in boats.

“Nobody should expect the boats to stop tomorrow. In fact, the people smugglers will now try to test our resolve,” he said.

Dramatic reversal
The deal marks a dramatic reversal of the asylum seeker policies put in place by Rudd when he first became prime minister in 2007.

Labor MP Doug Cameron, who previously called for asylum seekers to be taken off PNG’s Manus Island, says he supports the new deal.

“I think it’s consistent with the refugees convention,” he said.

“I also believe it’s consistent with all of the arguments that have been put forward over many years to get a regional framework and I congratulate PNG for taking the step to provide support for this regional framework.”

The Coalition has welcomed the deal but is demanding to know more details such as how much it will cost and how long it would take to build up the capacity on Manus Island.

Sean Dorney reports on the ‘culture shock’ for Papua New Guinea