Abbott to consider offshore processing bill

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he will consider the Prime Minister's bill to allow offshore processing, but has reiterated his objection to her Malaysian solution.
Julia Gillard has won the support of the Labor Caucus to push ahead with the Malaysian people swap deal despite a stinging High Court defeat.
She is now mounting pressure on Mr Abbott to back Labor's bill which will go before Parliament next week, describing it as a test of his leadership.
"It is a test as to whether he is guided by the national interest or is always guided by his political interest," she said.
Ms Gillard says Labor is determined to enforce the Malaysian solution and reopen a processing centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
But the amendments would also allow a Coalition government to restore its Nauru option.
"Malaysia offered the best answer to the issue of asylum seekers and people smuggling then. It offers the best answer now," she said.
"These amendments will be broad in nature. They will enable the government of the day to design and implement its best solution."
Mr Abbott says the Coalition will consider any legislation the Government puts up, but in the meantime continues to pan Ms Gillard's plan, saying Malaysia is offshore dumping not offshore processing.
"The Malaysian people swap is a proven policy failure. Nauru is a proven policy success," he said in a statement.
"Only the combination of Nauru, the reintroduction of temporary protection visas and a willingness to turn boats around where it is safe to do so will stop the boats."
'Nothing to negotiate'
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen reminded Mr Abbott that a decade ago Labor offered bipartisan support to the Howard government when it introduced offshore processing.
"The legislation that we will introduce into the Parliament will seek to return the Migration Act to the previous understanding of both sides of the Parliament from 2001 to 2011," he said.
The Government is yet to spell out how it proposes to change the law.
"We will brief the Opposition on the wording of the amendments," Ms Gillard said.
"On the principle though, there's nothing to negotiate. The question for Mr Abbott here is a crystal clear one: Does he believe executive government should have the power to implement its policy on asylum seekers and refugees?"
Like Mr Abbott, Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison is hedging his bets.
"The Coalition has always supported offshore processing. We have the patent on it, but we don't support offshore dumping," he said.
"We'll fashion our response once we've see the Government's bill. At the moment we haven't got that bill so there is nothing to respond to."
'Unholy alliance'
Greens leader Bob Brown says his party will not be supporting any amendments that allow offshore processing.
"This is a developing unholy alliance between the major parties, and the Greens are here now to advocate... the publicly wanted position of Australian voters who would otherwise be left high and dry on this matter."
Ms Gillard has made a point of telling her party's Left faction - which sought a return to onshore processing - that the Government believes in honouring the United Nations refugee convention.
"This is an innovative proposal that brings together the maximum possible deterrence effect to smash what is truly an evil - people smuggling - while holding true to the refugee convention," she said.
The Government also argues that processing asylum seekers' refugee claims in Australia would be very expensive.
"That impact would be in the order of $4 billion over the forward estimates if we return to the sorts of arrivals we've seen in previous times," Mr Bowen said.
The Immigration Minister also wants to change the law so he can send unaccompanied minors to Malaysia or Papua New Guinea.
As the law stands he is their guardian and the High Court stopped him from sending them offshore.
Mr Bowen suggests guardianship could be offloaded to another minister.
"That is of course something the Government will consider down the track. There are a range of options," he said.
"But clearly whoever is the guardian, the minister for immigration must have the ability to apply discretion to appropriate removal." (


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