17 dead, and new asylum boat intercepted as Abbott rejects deal

Australian authorities have intercepted another boat carrying suspected asylum seekers southwest of Christmas Island.


Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said HMAS Leeuwin stopped the vessel on Sunday. It was initially spotted by a Customs surveillance aircraft.

“Initial indications suggest there are 60 people on board,” Mr Clare said in a statement.

“The passengers will now be transferred to Christmas Island where they will undergo initial security, health and identity checks.”

News of the latest boat arrival came as authorities announced on Sunday afternoon all search and recovery operations had been wound up following Thursday’s capsizing of an asylum seeker boat between Christmas Island and Indonesia.

A total of 17 bodies have been plucked from the ocean but there are fears as many as 90 people may have drowned.

It’s thought there were about 200 people on board and only 110 were rescued. They are mainly from Afghanistan and Pakistan. All are male.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Tony Abbott has dampened hopes held by some in the parliament that a bipartisan solution on asylum seekers could be reached.

”The first point I make is that what’s needed here is not more bipartisanship, but effective policies,” he said in Melbourne.

”What’s needed here is not compromise for compromise sake, but policies that work.

”It is not the opposition’s policies that have failed here, it’s the government’s policies that have failed here.”

But foreign Minister Bob Carr said both major political parties should aim to reach a solution on border protection.

“I just hope this week we can reach out across the parliament and settle on something that is satisfactory to both sides, namely protection for our borders and orderly processing,” Senator Carr told the ABC’s Insiders program.

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