Spy agency admits it can't cope with flood of asylum seekers.
Revelations that a convicted terrorist passed scrutiny as an asylum seeker and was held in a low-security detention centre has sharpened criticism of the Government's failure to control boat arrivals from Indonesia.
Asylum seekers are increasingly being rolled into national security and targeted by an Opposition that has already scored significant points with its attack on policies that have seen 43,000 people arrive since Labor won power in 2007.
The Opposition's claims that the Government has lost control of the nation's borders has resonated strongly with voters, who polls show already intend hurling Prime Minister Julia Gillard from power on September 14.
Further fuel has been added by the admission of the domestic spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, that its screening cannot keep pace with the volume of asylum seekers.
Asio director-general David Irvine told a Senate inquiry that only 10-15 per cent of asylum seekers arriving by boat were subjected to a complete security check before being granted protection visas allowing them to remain in the country.
This week a staunch Gillard ally, backbencher Laurie Ferguson, publicly urged her to lead a push to explain the complexities of and responses to asylum seekers, explaining the issue's international dimensions and the fact that the Opposition had no chance of finding quick solutions. "Neither Labor nor Liberal has a magic pudding to essentially tackle this and solve it."
But in western Sydney, where Ferguson holds the seat of Werriwa, voters have made it clear to MPs that asylum seekers will influence their decisions in the September election.
Western Sydney is crucial to the Government and is under threat. Ferguson said that if Gillard failed to make her point, Labor was "dead".
The case of Sayad Latif, a 55-year-old Egyptian who arrived with his family as asylum seekers in May last year, has deepened Labor's woes.
Latif had been convicted in absentia of belonging to the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organisation linked to al-Qaeda, and of premeditated murder, destruction of property, unlawful possession of firearms and explosives, and forgery.
He was on an Interpol watch list when he arrived at Christmas Island.
Because of a "clerical or some other mistake" he went to Adelaide's Inverbrackie low-security centre, contained only by pool fencing. In August the mistake was uncovered.
Former Immigration Minister Chris Bowen was told about the matter in September, but no action was taken.
The federal police became aware of his identity in November, but the department said it had not been informed until last February.
Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor was not told of the case until April 17 this year, when media inquiries began. The same day Latif was moved to high-security detention at Sydney's Villawood centre.
"We took this briefing very seriously," said O'Connor. "There is nothing more important than national security issues for any federal Government."
But shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison accused the Government of "gross negligence" and said its border protection policies had failed.
"This man slipped through the net, and the reason he slipped through the net is because Asio simply doesn't have the resources to cope with the vastly increased number."