Navy resources stretched

AUSTRALIA'S Navy patrol boats and sailors are being stretched because of the failure of politicians to strike a compromise on asylum seeker policy, Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said.

Mr Clare confirmed the Navy was in the process of developing "permanent repair plans" for patrol boats after it was revealed damage had been found in three vessels.

He said cracking had been found in the engine room of HMAS Armidale, while minor cracks had been discovered in another two vessels.

Temporary repairs had been made, he said, with the structural analysis of patrol boats due to be completed by October.

Mr Clare said the patrol boats were working in often rough conditions, and it was beginning to take its toll.

"Our patrol boats are working hard. Our sailors are working hard as well," Mr Clare said.

"They wouldn't have to work as hard if our politicians would just work together and that's what we need to do next week.

"The latest incident involved a boat carrying 211 asylum seekers being intercepted on Wednesday night north of Christmas Island.

Mr Clare's comments came ahead of what will be an eventful week in Canberra when Parliament resumes.

The Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers will deliver its recommendations on Monday, while independent MP Rob Oakeshott is expected to reintroduce his private member's bill designed to pave the way for the offshore processing of asylum seekers.

Mr Clare said MPs had an obligation to "put down their swords" and strike a policy compromise on the issue.

"You've got people hurrying to get on boats as quick as possible before this Parliament implements legislation that would introduce a real disincentive to make that dangerous journey," he said.

"The people of Australia have had a gutful of this.

"They expect their Parliament to come together.

"But if he is expecting the Opposition to soften its position, it appears he is going to be disappointed.Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said on Friday while he would treat the expert panel's report with "great respect", he would not be influenced by its recommendations.

"We have a policy and we don't need anyone to tell us what our policy is," Mr Abbott said.


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