Which is worse: locking them up or paying them off?

Australia is facing scrutiny both internally and on the world stage for our asylum seeker policy, with the Senate passing a motion calling on the government to produce documents relating to the alleged handing over of $US30,000 to people smugglers by 3pm today.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he is “absolutely confident” Australian agencies acted within the law. Meanwhile, Bill Shorten says Labor governments never paid people smugglers to turn boats around, but could not to say whether the practice was used on land in Indonesia.

An editorial in the Herald Sun today says if Australia has been paying off boats, we should just admit it: “It is the responsibility of the Abbott Government to be upfront with the Australian people for whatever is being done in their name”.

The editorial goes on to say “a righteous Bill Shorten” pointed out the Labor government did no pay people smugglers to turn boats around, but that this is because previous labor governments did not turn back any boats. It argues that during six years of Labor governance 50,000 asylum seekers arrived.

“Nearly half of these asylum seekers are still waiting to be processed, only adding to their distress”.

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It is also suggested that $30,000 might be a more cost effective way to process a boat full of people, and asks whether previous measures such as buying boats to stop people smugglers from getting hold of them, and providing lifeboats were “wrong” too.

In the coming days, we are sure to learn more about the situation and details that led to the paying off of people smugglers, if that is what occurred.

But on a day when a second petition of 65,000 people calling for the closure of offshore processing centres has been tabled in the Senate, we have to ask ourselves, what are the options?

Either way, Australia is in a tight spot and is being watched on the global stage.

Leonard Doyle, spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told CNN, “Clearly helping people smugglers is not something that is supported by international conventions. Indeed if they’re traffickers by this point then that is something that would not be supported by anybody but we have to see what the facts are”.

Indonesian authorities are investigating the alleged payments.

If Australian authorities did pay off the boats, do you think they should just come clean and explain why?