Tony Abbott Wants An Australian Billion-Dollar Drone Program, But Why? [Updated]

If I had $1 for every time Tony Abbott had said "stop the boats" in the last four years, I'd probably have enough cash to fund his latest proposal: he wants to buy seven UAV drones to scour the Australian coastline for illegal boat arrivals at a cost of $1.5 billion.

Image: Getty/Gizmodo

Note: this story originally ran in April 2013, but has now been updated to reflect the Coalition's policy documents.

Abbott proposed the plan in the wake of the arrival of a boatload of 66 asylum seekers into Geraldton, Western Australia without being detected by Australian Customs or the Navy. A rather embarrassing affair for all involved, really.

The leader of the Opposition said that the plan would cost $1.5 billion and be operational by 2017-18.

"We do need unmanned aerial vehicles to ensure that we've got proper surveillance over the approaches to Australia. We have got a government which has essentially surrendered to the people smugglers on the task of border protection. We will fix this problem. We will make our borders safe again," Abbott told SBS.

It's worth noting that these probably won't be the weaponised drones you see patrolling warzones in the Middle East, for example. This plan is about high-level border surveillance to augment the capacity of the Navy and the Customs Service.

Drones are already used around Australia's coastline to look for illegal fishing boats in Australian waters, but this plan is far more expensive and expansive.

Tony Abbott today outed his Defence Policy documents [PDF], which included a very broad paragraph on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for border patrol.

4. Broad Area Maritime Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

The Coalition’s Defence White Paper will closely consider the need for unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles.
The acquisition of unmanned aerial vehicles will be dependent on the advice of the Chief of the Defence Force and Service Chiefs, as well as a clear cost-benefit assessment that demonstrates the value of these aircraft.
We believe there is merit in acquiring new state-of-the-art unmanned aerial vehicles ― such as the Triton or equivalent capability. Australia lost its pre-eminent position in the Triton programme and delivery schedule because of Labor’s ill thought-out decision in 2009 to delay this programme to 2022-23.
Unmanned aircraft have the speed, technology and endurance to conduct surveillance over Australia’s vast land and maritime jurisdictions. Typically, such aircraft are capable of surveying an area of around 40,000 square nautical miles per mission. This leading-edge technology has the potential to enhance protection of our maritime borders and extended economic zones.
A decision on unmanned aerial vehicles can responsibly only be made from government.

Notably, the document is light on costings and exact drone numbers, but the Opposition Leader still sees the merit in using the drone tech to patrol Australia's borders.



    My guess is that the folk in the boats will see the drones and say "oh no, we've been rumbled!" and turn around of their own accord. Cheap at half the price!

      Turn around of their own accord? Not a chance in hell, they aren't out there for the fresh air. They've been duped and ripped of by the smugglers. That's a one way trip mate!

        ah, 'teh smugglerz'. Everyone's favourite new boogie man.

        Seriously guys, we aren't pandering to western sydney xenephobic bogans - we just want to fight THE SMUGGLERS!

          How else are they going to get here, canoe?
          It's not like there's a public booking system. And they (smugglers) are making a mint from it too.

            So, basically, we redefine the job of 'boat driver' to 'smuggler', and then we can claim to be acting in their interests.

            Genius. I am going to start calling my taxi driver a 'people smuggler' from now on and refusing to pay on the basis of stoptheboats:
            a) operates transport
            b) for willing passengers
            c) in exchange for goods and services

              Do you think the driver, (they aren't generally experts) just takes his boat back after a landing?
              They are just flunkies for the main operators, they get arrested and either processed or jailed depending on the circumstances and they may get back home for final payment but odds are against them. They are just dupes in the process.
              Look, this isn't a legal thing to do from the departure point either, let alone when they get here. The poor beggars in the boat pays their last dollar and take their chances on not dying on the journey.
              Wake up!

                *ahem* I do believe you have just been trolled sir.

                Calling people smugglers implies that their cargo is contraband/illegal - since when has fleeing persecution been illegal?

        just throwing it out there... but @mr_tench was being sarcastic

        Last edited 12/04/13 12:27 pm

          not how I read it?

            I reckon it is.. common @mr_tench back me up

              Timmahh you certainly misread my intention. I would have thought use of the word "rumbled" as something "villians" only said when being verballed would have given it away. But I was wrong!

              Yes, I was being sarcastic.

                "Yes, I was being sarcastic."

                not sure if being sarcastic...?

                  "not sure if being sarcastic...?"

                  not sure if joking..?

      They already know there is essentially a 100% chance of getting caught, that's kind of the point. Then you get put into detention for a little bit and processed. In theory anyway.

        a little bit.... as in 5+ years

          If escaping whatever conditions you are currently in isn't worth being safe in detention then maybe you shouldn't hop on the boat...
          Serious refugees fleeing war, persecution and extreme poverty would likely not give a shit about being housed in the kind of basic comforts a detention centre gives over what they have left behind.

            I understand that a processing period is necessary, but to keep some people in what is essentially a prison for as long as 5, or even more, years is unacceptable.

            It may be better than what they came from, but they're human beings. Just because they'd been treated like shit in their countries of origin doesn't mean we're allowed to treat them slightly less like shit, and still pretend we're such gracious and fair hosts.

              Well considering they took the option of illegal entry into the country..... Also if they actually are from a war stricken environment they should be more than happy, considering they are getting housed, fed and taken care of. This is all also happening while there are Australians who are living on the streets in worse conditions than a detention centre. Also the fact of starting riots in the detention centres (I am not saying this for all) shows why some of them should not be allowed into the country.

      I'm replying to you for a couple of reasons. One; you have no idea and represent the general population's ignorance of defence acquisition. Two; you were the first commenter. OK, the MQ-4C Triton UAV mentioned by the LNP as a possible measure to monitor Australia's coast is;
      1. not new policy, the LNP was the first government outside of the USA to show interest in the MQ-4C Triton, before the 2007 election. The Global Hawk even visited Australia for evaluation.
      2. A capability the ALP has mulled over since they came into power.

      The MQ-4C Triton gives the ability of the government to monitor massive amounts of area using as little resources a humanly possible. I'm not sure how aware the "people" of Gizmodo are of Australia's ADF capability are, but basically we have leveraged USA's and other advanced nation's tech to make up for our low population and huge area of responsibility. We have done so for 100 years. AIR7000 was the project initiated to procure a replacement for the AP-3C 'Orion'. AIR7000 entailed the need or a long range maritime patrol air craft and an unmanned system. At the time the two that were basically the only fit were the P-8 and the MQ-4C, known then as the 'Global Hawk'.

      I must stress, government doesn't just come up with a brain fart and fill it with something they read in Jane's. The defence department comes to them with solutions to problems and the government selects the one they can afford. This capability is something that Australia has been able to afford for a very long time, something the ALP has cut to make the budget seem a little less incompetent. So before Gizmodo just thinks this is something Abbott has just come up with, I hope they would do some research, it's really simple stuff, and something even I have been able to find given a few Google searches.

      If Giz wants to contact me over the freely available resources I'm willing to share (it's publicly available)... I'm not really expecting that however, no one likes being proven wrong.

        'Government doesn't just come up with a brain fart'.... Have you seen Rudd in action??

      LOL Now if only we could get Liealot to do the same thing. Bonus!

    We will fix this problem. We will make our borders safe againYeah, cos those pesky refugees are armed to the teeth with.... Erm.. kids and shit?
    We (Australia) are one of the worst offenders, when it comes to refugees, we treat them like the scum of the earth, when in fact more than 90% of them are genuinely in peril and for the most part, the 10% are mostly wealthy address changers, not terrorists, those you can send back! That old "Al Qaeda" are everywhere! call is just nonsense. What's say we let em in, check they don't bring buckets 'O' money, and treat them like, well, refugees...?

    Last edited 12/04/13 8:46 am

      Agreed. This sounds like a bigger waste of money than what Abbot claims the FTTP NBN plan is.

        but in his eyes, its worth every cent as it'll buy votes from ignorant & racist John Laws listeners.

          Alan Jones mouth breather fans are pissed with this statement too.

          Probably not a bright idea to announce it on SBS which I assume is mostly watched by our international residents that know more about refugees than John Laws listeners.

        @ Ogre , Just out of curiosity, would it be a waste of money if the ALPs own Stephen Smith suggested using drones? Or is it only a waste of money if Abbott suggests it? Looking forward to the answer...

          Whoever suggests it, it's a waste of money. Asylum seekers are not a danger to this country except in the minds of Liars barrackers.

          @ridgeback great uninformed argument! Can you tell me where the thought popped into your head that people running away from a threat are a threat? Oh the LNP&ALP told you so? That's nice.

        Waste of money?

        These things are cheaper than conventional aircraft, have better sensors, longer range and are able to land in the space of a football field. They cost less to maintain, have a longer service life and are cheaper to upgrade as new tech becomes available.

        Where is the waste?

        An MQ-4 can take off from Broome or Darwin, and patrol the ocean between Australia and Indonesia surveying 37km wide blocks in visible and infrared as well as the ability to scan with radar an area of 100KM for 22 hours before turning around and returning to base.

        3 pilots located anywhere in the world control it and can swap out every 6 hours or whatever.

        And it's not just people smugglers. Illegal fishing and shipping taking illegal routes through the Great Barrier Reef are still big problems. A couple of these operating out of Townsville/Cairns and Makay/Rockhampton could cover and stamp out the vast majority of these.

        Then there is the SAR potential.

        Honestly not seeing how this is anyway a waste of money.

        And if it is a waste of money, its one that the Government has been considering as well.


      Completely agree. The whole 'Boat People' debate is childish at best and disgraceful at it's worst.

      Some of these people are trying to escape an untold number of horrible things that we casually flick through when turning on the tv in the evening. Some people are giving up almost everything they own or hold dear in the chance that they can escape to somewhere better.

      There are an absolute ton of misconceptions about this issue, which is exacerbated by not only the media and politicians, but a vocal number of the community that still have the 'White Australia' mindset.

      I could go on, but it is one of the things that sickens me, especially how it gets so much of the political spotlight in Australia. I guess its just politicians pandering to bogans....

        A lot of these people are trying to escape one thing you refuse to criticise. Islam. If you agree that they are worthy of asylum then you must agree they countries of origin are poorly run. Or are you so tolerant that you tolerate the intolerant?

        This is complete rubbish. Look from the broader perspective than simply race. They are taking illegal entry into the country with the option of staying in a detention centre where they are taken care of and they are not in the threat of death. This is all so the government can process there entry. Its not bad considering the BROKE THE LAW, no getting penalized for it, they are taken care of and will get entry to the country if they obey Australias procedure.

        Race has nothing to do with this and as soon as you drop the Racist rubbish, the better

      Timmahh, I'm curious. Would you, if in power try to stop boats coming to australia? Or would you welcome them? You do know people have died in those boats don't you? Would you like to send out some more invites? Do you ever wonder why countries around the world have borders? Or why people require passports? Do you think it may be possible that some people coming into the country as refugees, may not actually be a refugees? What is your solution? Set them free on the mainland and watch them try to get a job without a taxfile number? Wow such a kind soul. What an embarrassment we are us Aussies. All other countries have open borders for refugees but the racist scum of Australia seems to want to crosscheck them! And on top of that it's the opposition leader who's to blame!!! For some reason people think that only Abbott is concerned about border protection. Surely you labour folk are aware that Julia is trying to protect our borders as well. I'm sure you are in agreement with her policy???

      Last edited 13/04/13 5:02 am

      What's say we redirect them to Antarctica and tell them that if they try to cross our borders with their filthy stinky boats filled with ILLEGAL imigrants again... We'll blast their sorry asses to oblivion!

      Fair enough they've come from some f**ked up war torn place that they needed to escape from before their met their fate at the end of a rifle, but NO! NO AUSTRALIA FOR YOU! COME BACK... NEVER!

    Australia uses not just drones for coastal protection but manned aircraft as well. And the RAN's patrol boats are deployed for the same mission. Further, the boat that arrived "unseen" at Geraldton had been identified at least twice before it arrived at Geraldton.

    Australia is quite well "protected" against unarmed and desperate asylum seekers and the leader of the opposition's plan is just another stupid, pointless, misdirected white elephant rather like his NBN proposal.

    won’t be the weaponised drones

    I was hoping it equipped hellfire missiles for that kind of money. A hand full of these missiles will definitely stop the boat!

      Why waste money on hellfires when we could just shoot nationalist 'f-off we're full' type dickheads at the boats? And if we miss, so what? One less douchebag we have to worry about.

        The new AGM-66 Bogan - guaranteed to sink both boats and cases of Woodstock tinnes.

    "If I had $1 for every time Tony Abbott had said “stop the boats” in the last four years"

    If I had $1 for every time Labor said that they would stop the boats, I'd be even richer than you. If I had an additional $1 for every time Labor blamed the Coalition for its own mistakes, I'd be the richest person in the world.

      Umm - tell you what - I'l give you a dollar for every link you can provide where a Labor politician is quoted as saying 'stop the boats'. And if you could point me to where Labor has blamed the coalition for Labor's own mistakes, that too would be useful. These are new claims to me. I have heard lots of people criticize Labor for policies they don't agree with (eg Mining Tax, Carbon Tax) but you are the first person I have heard say they are blaming the coalition for their mistakes. Some details would be educative for me.

        You want a hardcore Coalition fanboi to back up his bs claims with real, verifiable data?? Yeah, good luck with that...

        Labor doesn't say 'stop the boats' as they like to hit the Libs around the head with their sloganism. In any case, Labor's policies are also designed to stop the boats. The Malaysian Solution wasn't an all expenses paid holiday for the first 800 lucky asylum seekers after all. And in any case, Rudd was elected in 2007 on a platform of removing the Pacific Solution but still stopping the boats. Specifically, when asked about boats approaching Australia, he said "You'd turn them back."

      It's cute that you believe Piss and Moan Tone can stop the boats, because that's as impossible a task as, say, guaranteeing that you can ensure people drive up to the speed limit at all times without ever exceeding it, something that involves thousands and thousands of people with no effective means of policing it. I think you'll find nailing water to a tree is a much easier task.

        It's cute that you can read a statement and read into it anything that you want, even if its not there.

        Please point to me the exact part of my statement that says that I believe that TA can stop the boats? You won't be able to because it is not there.

          Hmm - I notice you took the time to reply to this post but somehow didn't reply to mine - having trouble backing up your claims with evidence?

            I just have one thing to say to Peter T...


            Yep... I think that just about sums it up = )

          But isn't that what the anti-labour fanbois do? So Guy asked you to provide links to when Labor politicians have stated they'll 'stop the boats' and where Labor has blamed the coalition for 'it's own mistakes' but you ignore that and take me to task... Bit of a double standard there. Listen, you provide links to real examples, I mean actual instances of what Guy was asking for, not some bullshit op-ed rant from Bolt or Ackerman that contains only vague comments or something that is easily interpreted in different ways-- You provide real, actual, hard data proving what you say is true, then, and only then, I'll address your query. How's that sound?

            All you need to do is use a search Engine and search for "Labor blames Abbott" or "Gillard blames Abbott" and you will be welcomed with a multitude of articles. Yes, a lot of those articles will be Abbot or the Coalition saying that Labor is blaming them, but there will still be a wealth of articles wherein Gillard/Labor/Swan or someone else from Labor blames Abbott or the Coalition for Labor's policy failures.

            There is plenty of evidence.

            Yes, apology accepted . . . though I doubt that I will ever get one!

              I find it interesting you feel slighted. I think, the worst thing I've called you thus far is fanboi. If you feel slighted by that, may I suggest a spoon full on cement with your coffee? It will help you harden the fuck up.
              Btw, Guy and I are still waiting on any credible evidence to back your bs up. I mean, since it's so readily apparent, I don't understand why you couldn't link it, unless it's a conspiracy by Stephen Conroy to censor political dissent against the ALP... that sneaky bastard!

              Last edited 12/04/13 7:45 pm

                The Labor party you seem to love so much is going to lose the election this year.

                But don't get bitter...

                Get better (Politics).

                  I'm no fan of either major party. My party doesn't exist in any significant way anymore. They're both filled with opportunists and prima donnas. And you're right, the ALP's complacency and lethargy towards running this nation and it's penchant for self sabotage (coup d'états notwithstanding) are the reason they'll get spanked in Sept. It's just a shame it's at a time when Mr. Incompetence is leading the Libs with his team of barely sentient lackeys. Turnbull is a far superior leader, shit, Peter Costello should have had a crack instead of his little tanty because John stole the keys. But with Piss and Moan Tone who takes multiple sittings to read a stop sign and team of advisers with crayons and sock puppets to understand it, his coming to power couldn't come at a worse time. It really comes down to a choice between a shit sandwich with a hint of ginger and a shit sandwich with wingnut ears, either way, we'll all be eating shit in Sept.

        its not that hard to nail water to a tree...just freeze it...

          Then it would be ice.

            Ice would crack if you nailed it,
            you would need to freeze it around the nail, that is already in the tree

              You could pre-drill a hole I guess?

                But then still, the ice would eventually melt, and run down the tree. :/

      Don't worry Peter T, it's a very pro-Labour crowd here. I suspect sub 21 year old's without jobs. But hey, I could be wrong ... again ;)

      Last edited 02/09/13 12:33 pm

    Sounds good, and is quite cheap really - much less then having more ships constructed anyway.

    Now if only he could stop the flood of immigration into this country, we cant handle what we had 10 years ago, and we are getting bigger!

    Say no to breeding.

    Surveillance of our territorial waters is something we do already. Using drones to aid that task reduces the number of navy vessels needed to accomplish that task and reduces the length of patrols that do need to be undertaken. I know the instant reaction from some people is likely to be 'lol Tony Abbott wasting money lolol' but the proposal should be seen more as a technology upgrade for a task we already perform that will reduce long-term operating costs. It's actually a good expense in this case.

      It's also ineresting to see that many Lefties are all of a sudden worried about how much things are going to cost. We didn't hear a peep out of them in the last 6 years of record deficits and multi-billion dollar thought bubbles.

    For once I actually mostly agree with a Tony Abbott policy (never thought that would happen after his NBN Dial Up proposal). That is I agree that we need surveillance drones because we have so much coastline to cover, but to suggest that they would only be used to find & stop asylum seekers is very short sighted. There is illegal fishing, search & rescue, marine studies, tracking Japanese whaling vessels and watching what really goes on between Sea Shepherd and them, etc, etc, all of which I think have more of an impact on our way of life then a few refugees...

      I agree. One thing the current government has done well is to keep a watch on the ocean off our eastern seaboard and, because of that, they've been able to greatly reduce the number of factory fishing boats that have been illegally plundering the area.

    I will never understand why Australia doesn't tap into companies here in Australia to design, build and test the same thing instead of going overseas and spending more on something that we can no doubt do ten times better. Australia needs to start investing in itself.

      You mean like we did with Myki? Designed and built our own system when decent, working, tested systems already existed in Hong Kong, New Zealand, etc.

      A: We just don't have the technical base to produce advanced systems like these.

      B: Government has no clue about defense systems and constantly defers to 'whatever the Americans say'. Because, you know, they'll have our interests at heart, they won't go mental for us to prop up their industry with equipment that isn't appropriate for our needs, would they? *cough* F-35 *cough*.

      C: We have no faith in our industry here. For innovative technology and systems to get any attention, they go overseas. It's only then when we have to license it back from an overseas source does Government/MOD/ADF pay it any attention. Case in point, Metal Storm-- It was even ridiculed here by the continually short sighted leaders of defense and government!

      D: We are an incredibly risk averse nation. Anytime we make something, if it's not perfect first time (what is?) we have 100 comentators telling us what we're doing wrong, if they weren't already doing it in the first place. We sabotage ourselves.

      E: --Do you want me to go on? It only gets more dperessing...

      Last edited 12/04/13 10:09 am

        I'd say it's a combination of A and C. There's a sense of 'why reinvent the wheel' when it comes to the R&D already put into drone technology overseas, but also the fact that Australia's manufacturing sector, particularly the part that has defence clearance, is extremely small and below the sustainable threshold. Small markets tend to charge more out of necessity, clients look overseas as a result and the market shrinks even more. The last thing the ADF wants is equipment built by a company on the verge of going out of business.

          Yeah, they've been screwed by that before. Also, US manufacturers are increasingly restricting content and production to within the US, which really sucks for the end user. What really blows me away about this whole thing (actually it doesn't, because it doesn't surprise me about Abbott at all) is that he supported the cancellation of the BAMS element of the future maritime proposal that looked to use a combination of P-8 Poseidon and the BAMS variant of the RQ-4 Global Hawk because of the 'government waste' and their 'throwing good money after bad'. I sure as shit don't remember him showing any moral outrage when his last government wasted AUD $1.1 billion on trying to convert the Super Seasprites into mini-AP-3C Orions, before cancelling the program entirely. What a duplicitous twat he is.

            Heh. Well as far as I'm concerned, nobody's innocent in politics. They're all as bad as each other, even if some of them pipe up with a good idea every now and then.

              Damn straight. ^^This is probably the truest thing one can say about politics/politicians.

      Where do you get the idea that we can 'no doubt do (it) ten times better'?

      Because STRAYA NUMMA ONE?! Or do we actually have a huge aerospace program that no one else knows about except you?

        We've got a reasonable aerospace industry, employs about 12,000 people. Plenty of specialised component manufacturing and a little engineering.

      Actually we already have products being used by the ADF and agencies here and overseas. But it looks tougher to get the same as the US....

    And by the way, that pic of Abbott on the Drone pretty much sums him up, "A dick with wings"... :)

      And soon to be Prime Minister dick according to what the media is peddling hard. God I hope they're wrong.

    "We will make our borders safe again". From what, exactly? Desperate people looking for a better life? I think maybe Mr Abbott should be included in the next round of Go Back To Where You Came From participants.

      Safe frome people willing to set a boat full of people of fire in the middle of the ocean.

        Typical, can't expect much from Liberal fanatics.

      Sorry but are you suggesting only Tony Abbott is worried about border protection? Or does your beloved Gillard government have a policy too? What is hers? Is it a policy of 'please come in, we know you have had a hard time and we would like to offer you a better life'. Please remind me of her solution? Does it involve Malaysia?

      Last edited 13/04/13 4:16 am

    Interesting point, I wonder what is the benefit/cost analysis here. I would be prepared to support the policy if its outcome was cost saving/efficiency. I do not support the hyper-politicised "stop the boats" rhetoric. That rhetoric is aimed at the uninformed and to stir ill-feeling towards immigrants/refugees and has little factual relationship to the actual problem of refugee arrivals by boat.

      I'd love to see someone ask the same of our politicians. What's the maintenance, staffing and fuel costs of the drones over patrol boats. There's obviously other tasks (illegal fishing/drug running etc) that a patrol boat could stop.

      It is all about efficiency. It has been well documented that the current patrol boats are showing premature wear and tear due to the high operational tempo. It is also a massive manpower effort to keep coast watch and Air Force Orion planes patrolling all our approaches. The idea of the long loiter time Global Hawk variants is to cover a lot of area continuously at relatively low cost so that expensive manned assets are appropriately positioned to intercept anything suspect. Note these are not Predators, which have caused the controversy in the States for drone attacks, Global Hawks are not weaponised and have a much longer endurance than a Predator.

    Why are we trying to stop asylum seekers? illegible emigrants might be fair enough, but legitimate asylum seekers?

      There are other mechanisms for seeking asylum from Australia that don't require you to travel here first. The issue isn't that we're taking asylum seekers - I welcome that - the issue is that many of the people coming on boats aren't legitimate asylum seekers, they're people rich enough to afford to be smuggled into the country. A great number of them destroy their documentation in advance and call for a navy pick-up once they're in our waters. The reason this is a problem is that they end up taking the money that we should be putting towards the genuine asylum seekers.

      Last edited 12/04/13 10:11 am

        Pretty much this. Australia's annual asylum intake is finite. Every asylum seeker that arrives illegally effectively jumps to the front of the queue and forces another asylum seeker who did everything right to wait longer to be allowed entry. That's not fair on the people who did things the right way.

          If my family and I faced death/torture in Australia, I'd be selling up everything I had as quick as I could and fleeing as a "person rich enough to afford to be smuggled into the country".

          If you have nowhere to submit a claim for asylum and "join the queue" then what other choice do you have?


            What about the people in the same circumstance as you who can't afford the boat trip? Because you can afford to get on a boat and enter another country illegally, you're entitled to be processed before everyone else?

              My point is there is no magical queue to stand in.

              If you are a refugee you flee by any means necessary

                There is a queue, and in fact a whole framework operated by the United Nations with respect to asylum seekers and refugees. See my post below.

          And which queue is that exactly. There is no queue that somebody can get in to seek refugee status in australia

            (Just a quick edit to clarify: refugee status and asylum seeker status are two different things. Not all asylum seekers are refugees, and refugee status is not given to an asylum seeker until the host government has determined it to be legitimate. You're right that there's no queue to apply to be a refugee, but there IS a queue to apply for asylum.)

            The queue is the list of asylum requests processed by the Refugee and Humanitarian Program under the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. They use the same system that standard immigration applications use, albeit in a different category that is processed differently (much faster). The queues are filled from a number of sources, the big ones being United Nations CRSR applications or requests forwarded by the UNHCR agency. Australia budgets a certain amount to aid refugee immigration and the UNHCR works with the target intake of countries that signed the convention to redistribute refugee populations as needed.

            The requests are handled in triage-style, with applications being given different classes of urgency, but because holding unprocessed asylum seekers for the time it would take their application to be processed normally has been unpopular, boat arrivals effectively jump to the front of the list to be processed.

            Last edited 12/04/13 11:29 am

              So you are saying they should just stroll down to their friendly United Nations shop and submit an application for asylum?

              Keep in mind that by definition, refugees are unable to avail themselves to the protection of their own country, nor return there for fear of persecution.

                Do you think you can discuss the topic without the sarcasm? It doesn't give me much faith that you're interested in the facts.

                The normal process for a refugee to be looked after by the UNHCR is for them to enter a country that is a signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (CRSR) and apply through that country's government for refugee status. This is a normal process for most countries as part of their border protection. Once that status is acknowledged, the UNHCR will attempt to allocate refugees to other signatory countries (or the same one that was entered) factoring each country's population, economic status, budget and general capacity to handle refugees. They're kept in the country they made their application in until a host country accepts the asylum request.

    Unless the drone is fitted with guns to 'fire across its bow' as warning shots, this isn't going to do diddly squat to fit Tony's tag line of Stop the Boats
    'Oh look, a drone...' *shrug*

      at least we can have the welcome BBQ ready in time for their arrival. if we know they are coming.

      the people who organise these trips are likely the same ones who organise drugs, kidnappings and shoot for pay businesses. They are not the ones sailing the boats, they are the ones sitting and living comfortably from the blood money. I have no doubt that some of them are based here and operate as advocates for when they get here, gotta feed the business! and they are deserve to be caught and prosecuted under the laws of the countries they import from.

      I would hope that any and every intelligence gathering device is being considered and used to cut this off at the source.

    Predator drones are only $20mil each, and yet d$1.5bil only buys us 7 drones (~$200mil each)? What on earth kind of drones are these?

      Predator drones fly at a much lower altitude and therefore don't cover as much territory. The Global Hawk high altitude, long endurance aircraft. It flies at something like 60K ft, covers a much wider area (something close to a million kms2) and can detect smaller targets at a much longer range. The Predator is a tactical platform and just isn't as capable for the broad area maritime surveillance role we require.

        Even Global Hawks are going to have a hard time covering our 35,700km of coastline (not counting islands), with only 7 of them.

      Maybe they are buying the drones from Adobe or Autodesk

      the $1.5B will include, as it alwasy does with military expenditure, running cost and maintanence for a certain ammount of time after purchase.

      And 7 drones for 1.5B is significantly better than the current P-3 and better still than the P-8s being ordered for which we will be paying arround $6B before we even have to start paying for the planes.

      Ones that can fly for 40 hours nonstop. Predator drones are about half the size.

    So.... spending 1.5 Billion to detect boats...... seem like it would be cheaper to just allow them asylum here...

    Last edited 12/04/13 9:39 am

      Doubt it. A one off payment of 1.8 billion vs however many asylum seekers living here for the rest of their lives.

        1 off my arse.... people wont operate these for nothing...

          No idea why you got downvoted. It's true, these drones will require regular maintenance, they'll require refuelling, and they'll require people to operate them. Much more expensive than the cost of processing asylum seekers.

            Thank you Andrew, maybe I shouldn't have generalised as much as I did. I just wanted people to not think of it as a single one off payment that will solve illegal immigration once and for all (which is what abbot wants), but instead see it as a potential money drain that could be better used helping these people.

          Except the $1.5B includes the cost of operation and maintanence for several years after purchase.

        nah, once the asylum seekers are in the country & processed, they get jobs here, pay taxes & contribute to society. well..... the vast majority of them do.

        1000 asylum seekers in the country for ten years will pay (roughly) $80million in taxes to the government.
        on top of that, whatever jobs they're doing are contributing to the country.
        & given that theres far more than 1000 refugees in Australia at the moment, I think its a good financial investment to not buy drones & instead spend the cash on getting refugees processed & situated faster.

          Wish I could upvote this comment more than once. Hallelujah! People forget that this country was built on migration and will continue to grow that way. Our own population is aging and we are rapidly running out of skilled workers. We need to allow people in and then provide the training to get them skilled.

    What's 1.5 Billion? He'll have plenty to spend on other projects with the savings he'll make on his NBN infrastructure... :)

    Labor has already said it is going to spend 2 billion to purchase Triton drones for the same purpose. Ref: The Liberals proposal is no different. In fact it's costed .5 billion cheaper.

    Last edited 12/04/13 9:47 am

    For a billion dollars couldn't you build a huge processing centre where they are starting from? I have always thought the best way to stop the boats was to provide people an alternative to getting on one.

    Defence (under both governments) has been working on a similar plan for almost 10 years now. I guess technology finally caught up to the simulations.

    Tony Abbott is a drone - why do we need more?

      Gotta have something for the RAAF to use as target practise I suppose. Though with ears as big as Piss and Moan Tone's, I'm a little concerned the RAAF hasn't been able to hit him yet...

    Good on Abbott. Drones are the way of the future and I daresay the next big War will be fought mainly by drones. We need to catch up to all the other countries, America is already light years ahead with their drones. Hopefully soon we will be able to blow terrorists and asylum seekers out of the water without risking our troops

    So when this becomes a massive failure as I'm sure it will be can we get our money back?

    Abbott's doing such a grate job of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!

    First the NBN and now this! Looser!

      BunnyMech, Just a tip.
      Before you accuse someone of being a loser, you should ensure you spell basic words like 'great' correctly so you don't end up looking like a loser yourself.
      That could be embarrassing.

      Last edited 13/04/13 4:19 am

    We have all these Colins class submarines that have been sitting around for years doing absolutely $(%& all. Why do we need drones when subs are supposed to have some of the most sophisticated maratime surveillance tech available?

      Have you ever thought about the fact that the subs are actually doing a hell of a lot, but due to the inherently covert nature of their operations the Navy chooses not to broadcast their activities to the general public?

    For once I actually agree with Tony Abbott - we should have drones patrolling the north coast. Regardless of which side you take on the refugee issue, knowing they are there in the first place is key to protecting the people in the boats.

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