New Operation Sovereign Borders commander Major General Craig Furini has warned would-be illegal boat arrivals the tough regime won’t change under his watch.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced the appointment in Canberra on Wednesday, with Air Vice-Marshal Stephen Osborne set to finish in the role on Friday.
Major General Furini said a new commander would not result in any change to authorities’ approach.
“To anyone contemplating an illegal maritime entry to Australia, the message is don’t. On my watch, you’ll be intercepted and returned,” Major General Furini told reporters on Wednesday.
Both the incoming and outgoing commanders said people smugglers and people looking to board boats were watching developments in Australia closely.
“Everything that is happening here in Australia is being watched and could be spun offshore to market to potential illegal maritime arrivals,” Major General Furini said.
His predecessor warned against complacency on border protection after more than two years at the helm of Operation Sovereign Borders.
“As I’ve said a number of times before, the people-smuggling threat is suppressed but we certainly could not call it defeated,” Air Vice-Marshal Osborne said.
He said people smugglers were hunting for comments to spin as marketing tools to restart the trade.
“We just need to be careful from any side of politics from any changes because it could be sold as that’s the chink in the OSB armour,” Air Vice-Marshal Osborne said.
Border protection has become a headline issue after the opposition supported medical transfer measures for people in offshore processing.
Labor backed a bill which cleared the Senate last week allowing asylum seekers to be transferred to Australia for treatment on the advice of two doctors.
But Labor’s commitment to boat turnbacks and offshore processing isn’t expected to end at next week’s national conference, with key factional figures locking in behind existing policy.