Ruddock backs Tampa stance
By Mark Phillips
26 August 2002

THE Australian Government would do nothing different if another Tampa incident happened today.

In an interview to mark the first anniversary of the crisis, Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said he had no regrets about the hardline stance adopted by the Government in refusing to allow the 433 asylum seekers rescued by the Norwegian freighter on August 26 last year into Australia.

'I think the person you ought to be asking would he do anything differently is (Tampa) Captain (Arne) Rinnan,' Mr Ruddock said.

Captain Rinnan said he had been dealing with a shipwreck situation and would do exactly the same thing again.

Mr Ruddock said the Tampa had been an important turning point in focusing national and regional attention on the global refugee crisis and people smuggling.

Out of it had grown the 'Pacific Solution', with detention centres on Nauru and PNG's Manus Island.

Mr Ruddock said the fact that there had not been an illegal boat arrival in Australian since November showed the strategies had worked.

'We've had nine-and-a-half months without any boats,' Mr Ruddock said.

'Do I think that's a good thing? Yes I do.

'I think the fact that people are not getting into boats, that their claims can be processed in Indonesia, is a good thing because it means the possibility of further people dying at sea in the tragic way we saw at the end of last year with 350 people drowning off Indonesia, those sorts of circumstances are avoided.'

Critics say the Pacific Solution is no long-term solution to people smuggling.

Opposition immigration spokeswoman Julia Gillard says taxpayers could pay $1 billion for a 'costly and unsustainable farce'.

'When we look back on the Tampa incident, what stands out is that the boat that sank was the 214th boat that was on its way to Australia since the election of the Howard Government,' Ms Gillard said. '(Before Tampa) the Government did not much more than maintain its mandatory detention policy, and it was only when an election was right upon us that they cobbled together the so-called Pacific Solution.'

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