Prime Minister Julia Gillard urged the Senate today to pass the Rob Oakeshott bill, which the House of Representatives has approved Wednesday night, that would pave the way for the Australian government to implement offshore processing on refugees seeking protection in the country.
In an interview with Seven Network on Thursday, Ms Gillard said that compassion should be the main consideration of senators in casting their votes for the legislation, which allows federal authorities to resurrect the Malaysian solution while accommodating the Coalition's preference of processing asylum seekers in Nauru.
"The bill before the Senate today is a genuine compromise and it is the only bill that can pass today," Ms Gillard said in making her appeal for the upper house to allow the bill to get through prior to the Parliament's six-week winter break.
"I am calling on senators, today is the day, let's get this done," the prime minister said, adding that Australia expects the Parliament to get on with its job, which will commence rolling out by accepting the compromise formulated by Mr Oakeshott.
But without the amendment insisted by the Coalition, which limits the offshore processing to nations that were signatory to the UN convention for refugees, Opposition leader Tony Abbott said earlier that his Liberal colleagues in the Senate would find it hard to support the Oakeshott bill.
"As the Coalition has made clear time and time again, we will never support bad policy. We will never engage in supporting something which we think will have bad outcomes for the Australian nation," Mr Abbott was reported as saying by the Australian Associated Press (AAP).
Also, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey asserted today that the Coalition will never be a party to a legislation that offers insufficient protection to people that need them most.
"We are not going to be in a position where we would send an unaccompanied child to a third party after we have been the legal guardian of that child's interest," Mr Hockey told Seven network this morning.
Even the Greens, normally supportive of government measures, would not commit to the bill as Greens leader Christine Milne reiterated that her party would not hesitate to reject a legislation that allows offshore processing of refugees intending to seek protection in Australia.
The Greens, Senator Milne stressed, cannot be counted on at this time even if the proposed compromise would be open for amendments.
On his part, Mr Oakeshott admitted to ABC today that all indications seemed to suggest that his bill will not win the support of the Senate but he stressed that the upper chamber should vote on the proposal with a bit more of soul searching.
"This is a really important day for the Senate," the independent MP said.
The Senate votes on the eve of another boat capsizing off the Christmas Island yesterday, the second in the same number of weeks, though this time authorities were able to pluck out 130 survivors, with only one person dead and three others missing.
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