A coalition government would tow boats back to Sri Lanka to help stem the flow of asylum seekers bound for Australia, immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says.
Mr Morrison, speaking from Nauru, said Australia should bolster Sri Lanka's maritime resources to prevent people from leaving.
''We believe the more effective way to deter [arrivals] here is firstly to support the Sri Lankan government with their interceptions at source whether at sea or land … [and] secondly, in the event that the vessels get towards Australia they should be intercepted outside of our waters and arrangements made for their immediate transfer back to Sri Lanka but into the safe hands of international agencies that are already on the ground in Sri Lanka, particularly the UNHCR and IOM.''
Mr Morrison said the Coalition would boost Sri Lanka's naval resources, ''just like we would do where requested or where supported in Indonesia as well''. He said the Coalition's tow-back policy, in which asylum boats would be returned to Indonesia where safe to do so, had been mocked by the government because Indonesia was unwilling to participate.
''But the difference is, the Sri Lankan government has expressed a keen interest in this and we would be very interested in supporting them … because it's much more safer to ensure that interception closer to Sri Lankan territory than Australia.''
Mr Morrison said asylum seekers on Nauru faced frustrations: detention on Nauru, and their dismay that other asylum seekers in the post-August 13 contingent were being sent to Australia on bridging visas while they languished on the island. ''The inconsistent application of that policy is exacerbating what would be normal tensions.
''The sooner we move to permanent arrangements then I think the concerns about the facility that are there presently will fade,'' he said. (Source: National Times Australia)