Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says hundreds of asylum seekers who have arrived by boat since the federal election have already been transferred to offshore processing centres in a "rapid increase" of the process.

In the past two weeks, 523 people have arrived by boat and claimed asylum in Australia.

Mr Morrison says about half of those have already left Australia's shores for processing on either Papua New Guinea's Manus Island or Nauru.

"More than half have already gone," he told Macquarie Radio.

"And we're going to continue to rapidly increase the turnaround time for people transfers."

It is unclear how the Coalition government has moved to speed up the pace of processing new asylum seekers - a process that has previously involved both medical and security checks and usually taken several weeks.

The Minister has also revealed the previous government had not funded its offshore processing operations on Manus Island beyond this year.

"There is not currently $1 that the previous government put in place for operations - operational funding for offshore processing at Manus Island," he said.

"Not $1 did they fund it beyond the first of January, so that's one of the early nasty surprises that we've had to deal with."

Mr Morrison said the Abbott Government would "make sure that's addressed" but added there was "an enormous amount of work to do to salvage that arrangement".

Mr Morrison has also defended the Government's policy of holding a weekly briefing to reveal boat arrivals instead of releasing a statement with each new boat - as the previous government did.

He says controlling that information will deny people smugglers the opportunity to exploit that knowledge and is "not uncommon with military-style operations".

"It's not the Government's job to run a shipping news service for the people smugglers," he said.

"It's our job to deal with the issue of people coming to Australia.

"We will announce that on a timely, regular basis, in a methodical way, in the calm and measured way we're going about this issue. 

"We will confirm the numbers of people, and hopefully - and I'm very confident - those numbers will be dropping - and we will confirm that.

"So there'll be no lack of transparency. People will know how many boats arrived, people will know how many people were on those boats and we will do that once a week."

The first such media briefing will be held today.

The Minister has rejected criticism from Labor and the Australian Lawyers Association that the new information regime would engender a "culture of secrecy".

News outlets frequently receive information on boat arrivals from residents of Christmas Island and Mr Morrison has indicated he will not attempt to stop that.

However he has warned Christmas Island's administrator, and previous Labor chief minister of the ACT Jon Stanhope, that he should abide by the Coalition's policy.

"Those who are employed by the Government to do government jobs I would assume would implement government policy," Mr Morrison said.

Mr Stanhope says he has not yet been directed to follow any sort of media blackout.

But, if he is told not to speak publicly about boat arrivals, he says he will have to reconsider his position on the island.

A former Christmas Island administrator, Brian Lacy, meantime has labelled the decision to provide weekly updates on asylum seeker arrivals as "puerile".

Mr Lacy says withholding information does not make any impact on the actions of those seeking asylum.

"There's simply no measure of deterrents that we could introduce that will stop these people fleeing the persecution and the brutality of their homeland and braving the elements for a better life in Australia or anywhere else for that matter," he said.

Labor frontbencher and leadership contender Bill Shorten has ridiculed the move.

"They said they would stop the boats, then they said they would buy the boats, and now they're saying they're going to hide the boats," he said.

Tony Kerin from the Australian Lawyers Alliance has also questioned the policy, saying it appears to be politically motivated.

"If it's limiting information on this issue then that's an inappropriate thing for the Government to do," he said.

"It was a burning issue prior to election and our community has a right to know what's happening on our borders on this issue when it happens, not just when the Government feels like releasing the information."

 

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