by Alan Thornhill
After a long, often emotional debate, the House of Representatives tonight passed a private member’s bill, designed to stop asylum seekers boarding leaky boats, to come to Australia.
The bill which Rob Oakeshott put up as a possible compromise, proposes offshore processing of asylum seekers both in Malaysia and on Nauru.
The government supported the bill.
The Opposition sought an amendment, excluding Malaysia.
The six hour debate was dominated, though, by the news that a second asylum seeker boat had capsized off Christmas Island, just days after another, which also capsized, with loss of perhaps 90 lives.
The Prime Minister Julia Gillard said 125 people had been rescued from the second boat, which is thought to have been carrying up to 150 asylum seekers.
However only one death had been confirmed, at the time of writing.
The final vote on the Oakeshott bill was 74-72.
The opposition had fought hard to amend the bill, to block processing in Malaysia, under an agreement with that country, which the Opposition Leader described as “a dud deal.”
Mr Abbott declared processing in Malaysia deal would strip away “protections” from asylum seekers, sent to that country.
“Their standards are not our standards,” he said.
But the opposition’s amendment was defeated.
The Oakeshott bill will go to the Senate tomorrow (Thursday), with one amendment.
That small, but successful, moved by a Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie, inserted a 12 month “sunset clause” in the bill.
This means that if the bill becomes law, it would automatically lapse after 12 months.
The issues would then have to be debated again.
However that is unlikely.
That’s because the Oakeshott bill faces almost certain defeat tomorrow in the Senate.
Earlier in the day, some 40 MPs, from all sides in Parliament, had met privately, hoping to find a practical solution to the asylum seeker issue.
But that has not yet emerged, even though there was some movement, on both government and opposition stands.
Julia Gillard’s announcement, that the government would be prepared to re-open a processing facility on Nauru, was meant to attract Opposition support for the Oakeshott bill.
However Tony Abbott said the Coalition would be prepared to lift Australia’s refugee and humanitarian intake to 20,000 a year, over three years, if the Malaysia agreement was scrapped.
But that didn’t happen, either.
This means that the government and opposition are still at odds, over what should be done, to prevent further asylum seeker deaths at sea.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
Friday May 24
The Dow Jones Index fell 12.44 points to 15,294.70
Ford Australia says it will close its Australian manufacturing plants in October 2016. Some 1,200 jobs to go.
Hazel Hawke dies at 83
A British soldier is hacked to death in the London suburb of Woolwich, in an apparent terrorist attack
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