The flood of asylum-seeker boats travelling to Australia will continue under a Coalition government, according to a former senior official in the Immigration Department who says Tony Abbott's plan to turn back boats and reintroduce temporary protection visas will not stop the dangerous journeys.
The assessment comes as Australian authorities called off the search for survivors of the latest boat disaster on Sunday night, amid calls for an independent inquiry into the incident in which an estimated 55 people died.
Thirteen bodies were spotted in the water on Saturday but, so far, none has been recovered.
Arja Keski-Nummi, a fellow at the Centre for Policy Development and former head of the refugee division in the Immigration Department, said only enhanced regional co-operation would reduce the numbers of asylum seekers trying to reach Australia by boat.
''The most important thing is to try and assist people so they don't have to get on to boats,'' she said.
Ms Keski-Nummi said that despite the Coalition's promise that it would ''stop the boats'' if elected, its plans to turn boats around, reintroduce TPVs and maintain offshore processing would not work.
''If they're in government, they're going to own the issue and they've made a lot of promises, that I frankly can't see that they can fulfil. And the main one is stopping the boats,'' she said.
Customs and Border Protection said that no attempts were made to recover bodies from the latest boat disaster on Monday, explaining Border Protection Command (BPC) boats and planes were being used in ''a range of high-priority operations in waters near Christmas Island and elsewhere''.
This came as authorities responded to a request for assistance from a boat about 115 nautical miles north of Christmas Island. The HMAS Glenelg found the boat with about 58 people on board, who were being transferred to Christmas Island on Monday night.
A customs spokeswoman said BPC would try to recover bodies when operations were concluded, but added that the likelihood of any successful recovery would ''diminish over time''.
Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning said he understood life-saving needed to be prioritised, but it was a ''very sad underlining'' to the sinking that bodies were still in the water.
Mr Glendenning added his voice to calls for an independent inquiry into the disaster. ''We do owe their families the truth of what happened to their loved ones,'' he said.
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare has said the search for the boat, which was first spotted last Wednesday, would be subject to a full review by Customs and Border Protection.
Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the government should establish a ''full and comprehensive'' review of Australia's maritime emergency response.