AUSTRALIAN SUPPLIED: A disposable lifeboat lies on central Java’s Karangjambe Beach after returning 26 asylum seekers to Indonesia’s shores.
AUSTRALIAN SUPPLIED: A disposable lifeboat lies on central Java’s Karangjambe Beach after returning 26 asylum seekers to Indonesia’s shores. EL Darmawanaap

Shorten changes direction on boat turn-back policy

A DEBATE over Labor's position on turning asylum seeker boats around at sea seems bound to dominate the party's national conference this weekend.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has announced he plans to reverse the party's position on the Abbott Government's turn-back policy, acknowledging it had stopped the death of asylum seekers at sea.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton dismissed the change of heart and said Labor's language around the policy change was soft and would encourage people smugglers.

"They're proposing this language, which has obviously been cleverly crafted to get it through conference, but they're looking at the option of turn-backs. There's not a definite policy.

"The government's definite policy under Operation Sovereign Borders is that boats will be turned back where it's safe to do so, and that has been the secret of our success in addition to temporary protection visas."

Mr Shorten's change of direction has enraged some members of the Labor Left faction.

Victorian MP Anna Burke said some voters would be reconsidering their support for Labor.


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