Australia's PM-elect faces early asylum-seeker test

Australia's PM-elect faces early asylum-seeker test

SYDNEY - Australia's Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott faced an early test Monday over the divisive issue of asylum-seekers, with the first people-smuggling boats arriving on his watch and diplomatic pressure from Papua New Guinea.

Abbott, elected as Australia's next leader on Saturday, put a pledge to "Stop the Boats" at the centre of his campaign, vowing a crackdown on asylum-seekers arriving by sea.

In an early test of his promises, the first boat on his watch, carrying 88 passengers, was intercepted off Australia's coast overnight and taken to the remote Christmas Island processing centre.

A second vessel carrying 57 passengers, including two foreign journalists reportedly working for the US media, was escorted to Christmas Island later Monday after being intercepted by the navy.

The asylum-seekers' fate under the new government was unclear.

Abbott said he expected people-smugglers to test the new government and warned it was now a "very different situation" in Australia.

"It wouldn't surprise me if they attempt to test the new government's resolve but they will certainly find our determination more than equal to theirs," he told commercial radio.

"One of the things that will happen very swiftly is that people who come here illegally by boat - even those who might ultimately be found to be refugees - will not get permanent residency of our country."

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