Blow to Liberal boats gag plan

The first boat of asylum seekers to arrive under the Abbott Government's watch has put a hole in its efforts to shut down how much information about boats is made public.

The boat, believed to be an Indonesian fishing vessel, was escorted into Christmas Island's Flying Fish Cove late yesterday by HMAS Maitland.

But unlike previous arrivals, the Government did not make the latest arrival public. Instead, Christmas Island residents revealed the boat's presence.

It is understood at least 29 people, thought to be of Middle Eastern background and including women and children, were aboard. Women and children were transferred first from the boat to the Maitland.

It is the eighth boat to arrive since the September 7 Federal election but the first since new public information rules were introduced by the Government, which was sworn into office on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison would not confirm the boat's arrival. "As already stated, information on arrivals will be provided at Operation Sovereign Borders briefings," he told _The West Australian. _

The first briefing will be held today.

Briefings, which are also expected to reveal detention and bridging visa statistics, probably will be held weekly rather than timely updates on arrivals that the Rudd and Gillard governments introduced.

Mr Morrison said yesterday the new information flow was aimed at people smugglers.

"People smugglers use information as a tactic to ply their trade," he said.

"Taking control of how that information is released denies people smugglers the opportunity to exploit such information."

Special briefings will be held for specific events.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said less public disclosure was in line with Operation Sovereign Borders.

"We are establishing a military operation to protect our borders, to protect our sovereignties and above all else, and this is what is often lost, to stop the incredible tragedy in terms of lives lost at sea," he said.

Labor leadership aspirant Bill Shorten said the Government did not have a right to hide information on asylum seeker boats, particularly if a boat were to sink.

"They said they would stop the boats," he said. "Then they said they would buy the boats. Now they're saying they're gonna hide the boats."

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