A group of 12 men, women and children from Sri Lanka arrived near the Cocos (Keeling) Islands last week and returned on May 6.
“They were in a good state – they had made the journey down and they quickly made the journey back,” Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told reporters in Brisbane on Monday, AAP reported.
The returns showed asylum seekers could not seek the help of criminal people-smugglers and expect to get to Australia, he said.
Dutton said he was not obliged to brief Labor on Operation Sovereign Borders despite the government being in caretaker mode during the eight-week election campaign.
“There’s no requirement under the caretaker convention,” he said.
The minister took aim at Labor after a number of candidates spoke out against boat turnbacks.
The latest was the ALP’s Melbourne candidate Sophie Ismail, who told Fairfax: “I have concerns about turnbacks. I don’t think they should be on the table.”
“Labor is divided when it comes to border protection,” Mr Dutton said.
A Labor spokeswoman said the party stood by its policy, endorsed at the 2015 national conference, to support boat turnbacks where it is safe to do so and put in place a UN-oversighted regional processing system.
Meanwhile, Mr Dutton said talks with Papua New Guinea to resolve the Manus Island situation would stretch beyond the election.
The immigration centre’s future was cast into doubt by a PNG Supreme Court ruling it was illegal.
“We will have what I think will be detailed and long-run discussions with PNG to help them in relation to this particular issue,” Mr Dutton said. (Colombo Gazette)