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Scott Morrison Instructed Border Force to Reveal Boat Interception on Election Day

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

On the day of the 2022 Australian federal election, then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison instructed the Australian Border Force (ABF) to publicise the interception of a suspected asylum seeker boat. Australians also learned of the interception via text message. The move was highly controversial, with critics accusing Morrison of using the issue of asylum seekers to cynically win votes.

The text message alert read:

"BREAKING - Aust Border Force has intercepted an illegal boat trying to reach Aus. Keep our borders secure by voting Liberal today."

At midday on election day, Mr. Morrison confirmed the interception while speaking to media having just voted at Lilli Pilli public school:

“That vessel has been intercepted in accordance with the policies of government and they’re following those normal protocols...I can simply say this. I’ve been here to stop this boat, but in order for me to be there to stop those that may come from here, you need to vote Liberal and Nationals today. In the interests of full transparency in the middle of an election campaign, the Labor party was advised of this”.

The ABF eventually issued a statement on election day announcing that a vessel had been intercepted in a "likely attempt to illegally enter Australia from Sri Lanka." The statement did not provide any details about the number of people on board or their nationality.

The government's decision to publicise the boat arrival on election day was widely condemned by opposition politicians and refugee advocates. They argued that the move was a cynical attempt to exploit the issue of asylum seekers for political gain.

The Home Affairs Department conducted an investigation into the matter. The report, which was released in July 2022, found that Morrison's office had pressured the ABF to release information about the boat before it had been fully processed. The report also found that the ABF had failed to properly document its decision-making process.

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