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Albo hits back at border security claim

CHALMERS POST-BUDGET SPEECH
CANBERRA, Australia, NewsWire Photos. May 15, 2024: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has knocked back claims his government will shutter the Nauru offshore detention centre, calling reports about a forecast $250m saving from mothballing the processing facility “wrong”.

“Operation Sovereign Borders is in place,” he told the 2GB radio show on Wednesday.

“We now don’t send people to PNG, because that facility is closed. Nauru is open.”

Host Chris O’Keefe pressed the Prime Minister on the budget’s forecast spend on “offshore management” within the Home Affairs department.

The department’s portfolio statements show a decline in the program’s allocation from $604m in 2024-25 to $339m in 2025-26, $345m in 2026-27 and then $352m in 2027-28.

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Mr O’Keefe asked Mr Albanese why he was “mothballing” the centre, but the Prime Minister stated flatly: “We’re not”.

“From time to time, media get things wrong.”

Question Time
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has denied reports his government will ‘mothball’ Australia offshore detention centre on Nauru. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

He said the government was not saving $250m by taking detainees out of the detention centre.

“That (Nauru) is open, that is where people will be sent who arrive in an unauthorised fashion because they won’t be allowed to settle in Australia.”

Mr Albanese defended his record on border security despite a sudden swell of illegal boat arrivals hitting the country.

“From time to time, these people smugglers, this evil business, will have a crack,” he said.

“But Operation Sovereign Borders is in place, it has never more funding than it has today.”

In early May, Australian Border Force officers detained five men on Queensland’s far north Saibai Island after the crossed illegally into the country on a dinghy from Papua New Guinea.

In February, some 40 asylum seekers were found roaming in remote Western Australia after their boat hit the shoreline

It is understood the men were relocated to Nauru.

Operation RESOLUTE
Mr Albanese spruiked the budget’s spend on border security. Picture: Department of Defence

“We won’t allow anyone who arrives in that fashion to be settled here, because we don’t want the evil business of people smuggling to exist and we don’t want people to risk their lives in coming here on boats,” Mr Albanese said.

“Our system is in place. No one is being allowed to settle here.

“There have been some issues here, but they have been dealt with, they have been dealt with expeditiously.”

Mr Albanese also defended his government’s overall spend on border security, spruiking an additional $569m in the 2024-25 budget to boost the country’s capabilities that underpin border safety security.

“Border protection has never had more investment than it has today,” he said.

“Operation Sovereign Borders is in place, not a single person who has come here as an unauthorised boat arrival on my prime ministership has settled here.”