Abbott Government uses frigates to tighten screws on asylum seekers

Ian McPhedran National Defence Writer
News Limited Network
September 24, 2013 12:00AM

A HEAVY-HANDED Abbott Government has ordered a second navy warship to patrol close to the Indonesian border in a more aggressive approach to stop people smuggling boats.

New tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) have been issued to navy crews by the government's people smuggling tsar Lieutenant General Angus Campbell and refugee boats will be met by what defence sources have described as "an escalated scale of response".

The first step in that process will be boarding parties authorised to order boats to turn around and go back to Indonesia.

Under Operation Sovereign Borders two frigates, seven patrol boats and numerous Customs vessels will patrol the seas between Christmas Island and Ashmore Reef and Indonesia.

Anzac Class frigates cost about $207,000-a-day to operate compared with $40,000-a-day for Armidale Class Patrol boats.

The frigate HMAS Parramatta is already on station and she will be joined by a second "major fleet unit" within days.

The navy's most powerful warships will be ordered to stay close to the maritime border with Indonesia that runs about 100km to the north of Christmas Island [sic].

In the past navy vessels have patrolled well inside the border and have tended to intercept suspected illegal vessels much closer to their final destination - Christmas Island.

To successfully turn boats around they will need to be intercepted close to the border to minimise the risk from towing at sea.

According to defence sources the safety of life at sea provisions of law of the sea means that people in distress can de delivered to the nearest landfall.

"We need to ensure that the nearest landfall is in Indonesia," the source said.

Providing a second frigate to people smuggling duty will stretch the navy's capacity and could lead to a supply ship rather than a warship taking up the future Australian navy role in the Middle East.

HMAS Melbourne is on her way to the Arabian Gulf and HMAS Darwin is working up for Middle East duty.


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