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Labor Throws Shade On The Sudden Arrival Of Boats 10 Days From The Election

Did the boats ever stop?

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Ten days before the election, Australians woke to the news on Wednesday morning that the asylum-seeker boats (which Tony Abbott claims to have stopped) ... ARE BACK.

Australia’s Schrodinger’s boats: They both have and have not stopped.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed the Australian Navy had turned back a boat with 21 people on board in the Timor Sea late last week.

Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

The 21 people onboard were processed at sea, according to the Daily Telegraph, and were "not considered to be owed protection" so were returned to Vietnam.

The prime minister has used the incident to reignite the scare campaign over asylum-seeker boats, saying Labor won't have the "will power" to follow through on turning back boats.

"The Labor party has announced they are going to abolish temporary protection visas," Turnbull said.

"This will mean that the 30,000 asylum seekers who came by boat under the Labor government, who are in Australia, will get permanent residence. This will send an absolutely unequivocal signal to the people smugglers that under a Labor government, anyone who manages to get to Australia on a boat will be able to stay here permanently."

At a press conference on Wednesday, Labor leader Bill Shorten was cynical about the timing of the government's boat announcement, saying it's proof the Coalition has run out of things to talk about.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

"You have to love the Liberal party central headquarters. [Asylum-seekers] is the 'break the glass' issue," said Shorten.

The Labor leader said the Liberals' tactic was: "Spread concern and say somehow Labor has a different policy to the Liberals when it comes to deterring boats."

Immigration minister Peter Dutton, who in the past has repeatedly refused to release information about boat arrivals, defended the sudden confirmation of the boat 10 days from the election.

Dan Peled / AAPIMAGE

"It has always been the case that we have provided information to the public through the media in relation to these matters once operationally it is safe to do so," Dutton told ABC News.

"Once all of the matters have been finalised and people have been returned safely and we have received undertakings from the country involved, in this case Vietnam, and we have dealt with all those issues."

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at alice.workman@buzzfeed.com.

Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at mark.distefano@buzzfeed.com.

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