Coalition wins asylum seeker war
THE Coalition was claiming victory in the asylum seeker debate on Tuesday as it agreed to support government legislation to re-establish processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
Re-establishing offshore processing in those countries was among the key recommendations made by the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers on Monday.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen introduced amendments to the government's migration legislation in the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott opened the debate and revelled in the Government's change of heart.
Mr Abbott, who led a question time attack on Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the issue, said the Government's back-flip meant the legislation before the lower house was "effectively the Opposition's bill".
"That is why the Opposition enthusiastically supports what is now before the House," Mr Abbott said.
He said he was "genuinely grateful" the government had adopted one of the Coalition's three key asylum-seeker policies, and predicted by the end of the current term temporary protection visas and turning boats around would also be implemented.
But he described the Government's decision to embrace Nauru and Manus Island as a "monumental" change of policy and suggested Ms Gillard "resign in honour".
"I regret to say that a government that could not competently put pink batts into people's roofs is unlikely, successfully, to put illegal boat people in Nauru," he said.
"But they will get their legislation and, if it fails, this prime minister finally will have no one to blame but herself."
In June, the government offered, in a big to break the policy impasse, to begin offshore processing on Nauru in return for Coalition support for Rob Oakeshott's private member's bill.
But the Coalition refused to vote for the bill because it would have also allowed the Government to enact its people-swap deal with Malaysia.
The expert panel said the agreement with Malaysia was worth pursuing but required greater human rights protections before it could be implemented.
Earlier on Tuesday Ms Gillard confirmed she had spoken with the leaders of Nauru and PNG and both had been "positive about hosting centres".
She also spoke with Defence Force Chief David Hurley, who said he could have reconnaissance teams on the ground in Nauru and PNG as early as Friday.
From there it would be possible for defence to construct temporary processing facilities.
"That means that, within a month, we would hope to see people being processed in Nauru and in PNG," Ms Gillard said.
Ms Gillard said she was eager for the legislation to pass, adding "the time for political point-scoring was over".
She said any delays would increase the risk of people smugglers attempting to "exploit the window".
"Clearly, the Australian people want to see us act. They are over listening to the yelling and shouting of politicians about this matter," Ms Gillard said.
"They want to see change and we can see change this week in the legislation and then act on that change as early as Friday."
The Greens, who are vehemently opposed to the bill, will seek an amendment that would restrict detention time on Nauru and other offshore detention centres to one year.
"Under John Howard's Pacific Solution, refugees were detained on Nauru for many years, in some cases as long as four years," Greens Deputy Leader Adam Bandt said.
"Under the new Pacific Solution, the Prime Minister has refused to guarantee that refugees won't be detained in island prisons for as long as, or even longer than, under John Howard."