Australia's Abbott proposes buying 'smuggler' boats
SYDNEY (AFP) - The frontrunning candidate in Australia's election, Mr Tony Abbott, would pay Indonesians for unseaworthy boats to stop them from ending up with people-smugglers, as part of a plan unveiled on Friday.
Mr Abbott, who is leading Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in opinion polls ahead of the September 7 vote, said he would step up on-the-ground operations in Indonesia with a "community outreach" scheme aimed at disrupting people-smuggling rings.
The A$440 million (S$508 million) scheme would include a capped government buy-back plan for the leaky fishing vessels used to ferry asylum-seekers as well as stipends for Indonesian "wardens" in 100 villages to spy for Australia and bounty payments for information leading to successful smuggling prosecutions.
Mr Abbott declined to comment on whether he had spoken to the Indonesian government about his plans, which were ridiculed as "crazy" and "bizarre" by the ruling Labor party.