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Rudd to talk asylum with PNG

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd will attempt to kick-start negotiations with Papua New Guinea on a possible asylum seeker deal as the government faces continued pressure on delays in its swap agreement with Malaysia.


Speaking on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Bali on Thursday, Mr Rudd said he would meet with his counterpart from Papua New Guinea, Ano Pala, over the coming days.

But he also played down the possibility of any real headway being made in a possible deal with Papua New Guinea.

“Given the political circumstances in Port Moresby at the moment and the possibility of a transition to new political leadership in Port Moresby, we have to be cautious as to how we proceed with that,” Mr Rudd said.

“But I stand ready to assist in whatever human way I can between now and the 1st of August,” he added, referring to surgery he will undergo next month to replace his aortic valve.

The future of the government in Papua New Guinea remains unclear following the retirement from office of Prime Minister Michael Somare because of poor health.

Sam Abal, the former foreign minister, is now acting prime minister.

“What I have indicated for a long period of time is that as political circumstances in Port Moresby clarify, that I will engage in appropriate discussion with PNG authorities as to what might be possible there,” Mr Rudd said.

The comments came after Immigration Minister Chris Bowen earlier in the day said the more than 450 asylum seekers that have arrived in Australia since the deal with Malaysia was announced would be processed in a third country.

It’s understood, however, that the deal with Malaysia will only cover asylum seekers that arrive after it is officially signed.

“They’ll be processed in a third country, that’s the government’s position,” Mr Bowen said on Thursday.

The federal government is under increasing pressure to finalise the deal with Malaysia – which would see 800 asylum seekers that arrive in Australia by boat swapped for 4000 bona-fide refugees – announced in early May.

Another boat carrying 52 asylum seekers was intercepted by the navy near Christmas Island late on Wednesday night.

However, Mr Bowen, who has previously said the agreement announced on May 7 would be finalised in “weeks not months” on Thursday refused to say when the deal with Malaysia would be completed.

“We’re in very advanced discussions with Malaysia and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and I very much look forward to having more to say at the appropriate time,” Mr Bowen said.


Federal Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says a protest at the Christmas Island immigration detention centre was completely inappropriate.

The protest by a group of between 20 and 40 detainees overnight resulted in significant damage to property.

Mr Bowen said mattresses and a temporary building were set on fire before federal police moved in to quell the violence using gas and bean bag bullets.

“This sort of activity is completely inappropriate, it is way out line with the expectations of the Australian people,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

“People undertaking this sort of activity are achieving nothing except potentially their release from detention and transfer into a prison.”


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