Thursday, August 03, 2006
The Federal Government wants to hold illegal fisherman and asylum seekers intercepted in Australia waters for up to a month in a prison ship. Customs is searching for a vessel that can be converted to hold up 30 detainees and be armed with mounted machine guns. The move is part of the Government's bid to strengthen Australia's border protection. A spokesman for Customs Minister Chris Ellison says the ship will have the capability to remain at sea for extended periods of time.The ship will cost up to $10 million a year to lease. The Federal Opposition has condemned the plan. Labor's customs spokesman Joe Ludwig says it is a patchwork approach to protecting Australia's northern waters and he is worried about the rights of those held on board. "Whether these detainees do have access to all of the rights that you would expect them to have access to, and 30 days is a long time to be held at sea, and then you've got to look at the vessel itself and whether its will be capable of sitting out there for 30 days," he said. Senator Ludwig says the fishing industry believes a fully fledged coast guard is needed to protect Australia's northern waters.