SYDNEY - Australia's new prime minister Tuesday said he will stand by a policy to send boatpeople to Papua New Guinea, but insisted a military-led response will remain his main focus.
Tony Abbott, who decisively beat Kevin Rudd in national elections on Saturday, told commercial television: "Stop the boats we will. The people smugglers are on notice, the game is up, it's all over for them."
PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill on Monday urged Abbott to stick by the previous Labor government's policy which involves the poor Pacific nation receiving a boost in foreign aid for taking asylum-seekers.
Abbott said he had since spoken to O'Neill about the continued processing and settlement of asylum-seekers on Manus Island.
"We will make the most of the arrangements which the former government put in place with PNG," he told the Nine Network.
"I think that it is an important element, not the only element, but it's an important element in the range of policies that are necessary to stop the boats."
Labor last week claimed its hardline stance had "broken the back" of the people-smuggling trade, with the PNG plan effectively removing the opportunity of a new life in Australia as an incentive for making the dangerous sea voyage.
In the first month of operations the number of boat arrivals more than halved from 4,236 in July to 1,585 in August.