Thursday 8 September 2011

Abbott has Gillard in his political cross hairs

Coalition's plan to solve asylum-seeker impasse would not allow processing in Malaysia
THE Coalition believes it can allow asylum-seeker processing on Nauru and Manus Island while ruling it out in Malaysia by making third country processing conditional on the signing of the United Nations' refugee convention.

It's understood the opposition has devised what it sees as a simple solution to last week's High Court ruling, which placed offshore processing in doubt.

It would involve replacing the section of the Migration Act setting out the conditions that third countries must meet with a requirement that they be a party to the UN refugee convention.

Malaysia is not a signatory to the convention, while Nauru will become an official party to it from September 26 and Papua New Guinea is already bound by it.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the Coalition was awaiting a formal proposal from the government before announcing its position.

But senior sources said the legislative fix had been formulated and could be easily implemented with support from the government.

But Tony Abbott has ruled out Coalition support for the Malaysian Solution, which immigration officials yesteray told him was a "game changer".

The Opposition Leader today he didn't need a lesson on the need to process asylum seekers offshore "because the Coalition invented offshore processing".

Prime Minister Julia Gillard will return home from the Pacific Islands Forum in New Zealand tonight to take charge of the growing border protection crisis arising from the High Court's ruling.

But with multiple boat arrivals predicted in coming days, the opposition believes it has the upper hand, with the government needing a policy solution more than it does.

Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan today said Malaysia remained the best offshore processing option. “That is the advice which is behind the government's decision to pursue a regional framework with Malaysia,” he told ABC radio.

“We've pursued that with good faith, we believe that is the best policy path for the future of the country, and there is no doubt that we have to pursue that because that is the most effective deterrent.”

Immigration officials believe there could be 600 or more people arriving by boat every month if offshore processing is abandoned, quickly overwhelming Australian detention centres.

Officials have warned of Paris and London-style unrest, which would change the nature of Australia's society and threaten support for multiculturalism.

Cabinet minister Stephen Conroy said Australians were tolerant of migrants but became frustrated if they thought people were circumventing the law.

“We need Tony Abbott's support if we're going to restore the capacity for a government to decide our migration policy and our refugee policy,” he said.

With Ben Packham

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