With the Liberal Party officially launching its election campaign at the weekend, Abbott proposed to introduce mandatory sentences of 12 months to 10 years for people smugglers and for those who harbour illegal immigrants.
But according to the Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor and Attorney-General Robert McClelland, Abbott's proposal to amend Australia's smuggling laws simply tinkers around the edges of Labor's package of new offences and penalties, which were passed in Parliament with Abbott's support less than three months ago.
O'Connor and McClelland noted that if Abbott read the Migration Act he would know that mandatory sentences are already in force for the most serious people smuggling offence. Under the Act, the most serious people smuggling offences carry up to 20 years in jail and mandatory minimum sentences of up to eight years.
"The Gillard Labor Government will continue to consider further amendments, but the heavy lifting to impose mandatory sentences and crack down on people smugglers and those who assist them has already been done by this Government," McClelland said.
"We've made effective and swift changes to stamp out people smuggling - not just tinkering around the edges to create a launch day announcement."