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The new federal government has launched an investigation into whether a Border Force statement about a Sri Lankan asylum seeker boat, which was followed by an election-day text from the Liberal Party, was requested by the then-prime minister’s office.
Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles confirmed this afternoon the secretary of the Department of Home Affairs has been asked to look into the matter.
The message, sent to thousands of voters on the afternoon of May 21 read: “BREAKING – Aust Border Force has intercepted an illegal boat trying to reach Aus. Keep our borders secure by voting Liberal today” with a link to the party’s website.
Following earlier reports the statement was requested by Scott Morrison’s office, Marles accused the Coalition government of politicising national security and said the reports, if true, “represents the final desperate acts of a dying government”.
“The former government sought to inject politics into a matter of national security. This is a matter that should have been above politics,” the deputy prime minister said.
“This is a matter where actually when it came to border security there was a national consensus, that this government sought to undermine and sought to create division where none existed and it sought to make this a matter of politics and this is really serious.
“It’s serious in the sense that it did make our borders less secure. It’s serious in that it risked lives, it risked lives, and it undermined the national consensus that does exist around border security.”
The statement about the boat was a departure from the previous government’s refusal to comment on “on-water matters”, a protocol introduced when Morrison was immigration minister.