Prime Minister Julia Gillard talks to Captain Nicholas Stoker on board HMAS Broome during a SIEV exercise in Darwin Harbour. Picture: Brad Fleet Source: The Daily Telegraph
Prime Minister Julia Gillard is fascinated by a glow stick on board HMAS Broome during a SIEV exercise in Darwin Harbour. Picture: Brad Fleet Source: The Daily Telegraph
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard's East Timor Solution may have already hit a wall after she failed to consult her East Timorese counterpart Xanana Gusmao.
Ms Gillard on Monday night sought the support of East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta to build a facility to house Australia-bound asylum seekers.
Mr Ramos Horta told Ms Gillard he was willing to discuss the idea, but Deakin University East Timor expert Professor Damian Kingsbury said the President had no constitutional power to approve such a facility.
Professor Kingsbury said it would be up to Prime Minister Gusmao and the East Timorese Parliament to give approval and warned Mr Gusmao had been making strong anti-Australian remarks.
Mr Gusmao blamed Australia for costing the lives of 60,000 East Timorese by coming to "wage war" with the Japanese in World War II, and was furious when questions were asked about East Timor's decision to buy two patrol boats from China.
Mr Gusmao's anger stems from the decision by the Woodside company not to pipe oil and gas from the Timor Sea onshore to Dili, which he believed had cost East Timor hundreds of jobs.
He may regard Ms Gillard's decision to consult Mr Ramos Horta as a sign of disrespect.
"Gillard might have a clever plan up her sleeve [in approaching Horta] but I doubt it. It appears she has been badly advised," Professor Kingsbury said.
"Gusmao is going to be a bit pissed off that he hasn't been consulted. If he engages with this he will be looking to extract a high price."
A source in the office of Mr Ramos Horta yesterday insisted the President had "exclusive competency" to ratify all international treaties.
But Professor Kingsbury said the President only gave his rubber stamp at the end of the process and Ms Gillard had phoned the wrong person.
After taking a tour on a patrol boat in Darwin yesterday, Ms Gillard met the media with Labor's Federal Member for Lindsay David Bradbury.
This was significant because Mr Bradbury, whose seat takes in western Sydney, has complained loudest that his electorate will throw him out if Ms Gillard does not provide answers on asylum seekers, of which another boatload arrived yesterday carrying 43 passengers. Asked if having Mr Bradbury on her quick visit to Darwin confirmed the East Timor Solution was an election stunt, Ms Gillard said: "It confirms there is concern across the community about the question of border protection and asylum seekers."
Ms Gillard also announced she would deploy eight new patrol boats to join the 18 boats and 18 planes already guarding Australia's border.
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s She said an additional seven AFP officers would be deployed to countries in the region to join other AFP officers already working to disrupt people smuggling.
"They've disrupted ventures that have prevented 5000 people making the dangerous journey by boat," Ms Gillard said.
Ms Gillard stressed there were long negotiations ahead in trying to achieve her East Timor Solution.
She said she planned to end the people smuggling business "in the sense that people smugglers no longer have product to sell if the end result of getting on a boat was you went to a regional processing centre".