Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Crook on the crossbench holds the staffe

Crossbencher Tony Crook keeps mum on fate of offshore processing plan

Crossbench Tony Crook has held 11th-hour meetings with Labor and the Coalition ahead of the parliamentary showdown over the future of offshore processing, but is still refusing to show his hand a day before the crucial vote.

Mr Crook, a West Australian Nationals MP, lamented the lack of bipartisan co-operation on the issue and reaffirmed his support for offshore processing, which he said his electorate broadly endorsed, warning that onshore processing would mean a new wave of boat arrivals.

But as the lower house crossbencher continued to keep his counsel, Julia Gillard told caucus the debate in the Labor Party over the proposed changes to the Migration Act underlined the need to tighten the ALP platform, saying it "meant all things to all people".

The government's legislation is designed to legalise offshore processing of asylum-seekers after the High Court ruled the practice illegal in August, throwing into doubt the government's ability to deliver on a deal to exchange 800 boatpeople for 4000 approved refugees from Malaysia.
If the legislation to restore the Malaysia Solution is defeated, it will be the first time since 1929 that the lower house has rejected a piece of government legislation.

The leader of government business in the lower house, Anthony Albanese, last night declined to rule out the possibility the legislation would be withdrawn before the vote if Labor felt it did not have the numbers. Pushed on the issue on ABC's Lateline , Mr Albanese would say only the legislation had been listed for debate tomorrow.

There was speculation the government could advance the vote to today to capitalise on the ejection from parliament last night of Sophie Mirabella for 24 hours.

Mr Crook indicated he disagreed with Coalition claims a defeat for Labor would amount to losing the confidence of parliament. "I don't see this as an issue for me about confidence," he told ABC 24. "I wasn't one of the ones who selected this government."

Earlier, Mr Crook confirmed he had previously opposed the Malaysia Solution, and said offshore processing in Nauru and the reintroduction of temporary protection visas had stopped the boats in the past.
But in light of the High Court decision, Mr Crook said he would not be surprised if offshore processing in Nauru was subject to another legal challenge.

"Having considered what happened over the Malaysian deal, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there wasn't a challenge to anything that comes up now, and that's obviously a concern," he said.

Mr Albanese indicated the government would proceed with the vote, even though it is expected to be defeated in the Senate. "This is a good policy and we need to ensure governments have the right to determine their border security policy," he said.

Addressing caucus yesterday, Ms Gillard said the ALP national conference in December needed to clarify Labor's position on offshore processing because the current platform was too vague.

Tony Abbott and his immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, met Mr Crook last night as the Opposition Leader continued to warn that the Coalition would not shift in its rejection of the Malaysia Solution.

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