Scott Morrison has defended his intense focus on asylum seekers who arrive by boat, when thousands more people arrive by plane each year asking for Australia’s protection.
For the past several weeks, the prime minister has accused Labor of weakening border security by making it easier for asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to seek medical treatment in Australia.
Mr Morrison has accused the opposition of allowing rapists and murderers into the country, restarting the people smuggling trade, and wilfully destroying national security.
On Monday night, he was pressed on how allowing “a handful” of people into the country would undermine border protection, when allowing thousands to enter by plane would not.
“People don’t die on planes. They die on boats,” Mr Morrison told the ABC’s 7:30 program.
“These are people who have to pass a character test to get on a plane. The character test applies to everybody who comes to this country through the official channels.”
However, people can come to Australia on tourist visas and then claim asylum, without undertaking character tests.
The government is bracing for hundreds of people on Manus Island and Nauru to come to Australia for medical treatment, after Labor and the crossbench passed laws giving doctors greater input.
The immigration minister will still be able to block their transfers on national security and character grounds, but these veto powers have been curtailed.
Meanwhile, Mr Morrison has defended a contentious $423 million contract awarded to a little-known company called Paladin for services on Manus Island.
The company, whose Australian arm was until recently registered to a beach shack on Kangaroo Island, was awarded the contract through a closed tender process.
Defending the contract, the prime minister said Paladin was “quite a large company” based in Singapore.
“I’ve been involved in having to put these sort of services in remote locations for a very long time and it is not a cheap exercise,” he said.
“That’s why you have to be so vigilant that you never allow this trade (people smuggling) to occur again.”
Mr Morrison said the proper processes were followed in relation to the tender.
“Nobody has been able to establish that it hasn’t been followed,” he said.