Labor sweats on Abbott’s decision

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says Labor’s so-called ‘Malaysia-solution’ for asylum seekers is bad policy and not in the national interest, as Labor waited to hear whether he would support changes to the migration Act which would allow it to pursue the plans with Kuala Lumpur.

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“If (Gillard) wants us to support her policy, she needs to take the appropriate steps and I’m saying to her that if she wants us to support policy, she’d better get her policy to resemble what we think is in the national interest,” the ABC reported Mr Abbott as saying.

“Malaysia is bad policy. Good policy is Nauru, temporary protection visas and turning boats around, and if the Prime Minister wants to put good policy in place it will get support from the Coalition.

“But it can’t expect the Coalition to support bad policy.”

The government next week will bring to parliament changes to migration and child guardianship laws to restore power to the executive after the High Court quashed the Malaysia agreement.

Under the agreement, Australia was to send 800 people who arrive by boat to Malaysia in exchange for 4000 properly processed refugees, in an attempt to send a tough signal to people smugglers.

Meanwhile, Labor backbencher Graham Perrett said he was not confident the coalition would back the amendments.

“I would not bet my house on Tony Abbott on being bipartisan,” he told reporters.

But he said it was “illogical” for the opposition leader to reject the amendments, as offshore processing was the goal of both major parties.

“So one would have thought you could come up with process that let the government of the day to pursue its goal,” he said.

Mr Abbott will be briefed by the department in Melbourne on Friday.

800 FIGURE IS ‘CONJECTURE’

Meanwhile, a senior immigration official has told the opposition that the federal government’s plan to deport 800 people to Malaysia to break the people smuggler’s business model, is a figure based on conjecture, according to Senator George Brandis.

Tony Abbott, shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison and shadow Attorney General George Brandis met Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe for a briefing in Brisbane last week.

The briefing discussed the legal implications of the High Court’s scuttling of the Malaysia people swap deal, which casts doubt on the legality of off shore processing of refugees.

Senator Brandis’s told the Senate he had inquired about how the figure of 800 came about, and Mr Metcalfe said the figure of 800 was just conjecture, saying the revelation’s brought into question the government’s entire border protection policy.

The Australian Greens have agreed to be briefed by immigration department officials on proposed changes to migration laws, but say there is no chance they will change their tune on supporting the amendments.

“It’s irresponsible to promote fear, to promote hatred,” Senator Hanson-Young said.