Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has accused Labor of turning back its policy on asylum seeker turn-backs.
But the opposition’s immigration spokesman, Richard Marles, says neither his nor his party’s position on the policy has changed.
He conceded on the weekend the government’s policy of turning asylum seeker boats around on high seas had stopped people coming, in conjunction with the offshore processing and regional resettlement deals that Labor set up.
Mr Marles said Labor was still worried about the safety of turning the boats back, and how the policy affected Australia’s relationship with Indonesia – but Labor might consider supporting the policy if Indonesia did.
“He has discovered the sun rises and that turn-backs actually work,” Mr Morrison told parliament on Monday.
But Mr Marles said nothing was different.
“We are open minded about anything which saves lives at sea but we retain two real concerns about the turn-back policy, and in this respect, our position has not changed,” he told ABC radio.
Labor backbencher Stephen Jones noted the caveats in Mr Marles’s support for the policy.
“I’m very comfortable, the Labor caucus is very comfortable where our policy is at the moment,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Victorian backbencher Tim Watts said Labor wouldn’t support turning the boats back where it was unsafe or jeopardised relationships in the region.
Mr Morrison said Mr Marles has been turned back by his own colleagues.
“Turned back on turn backs because those opposite … do not have the resolve or the ticker to do turn backs,” he said.
He wants Labor to support the policy wholeheartedly and notes there has only been one successful asylum seeker boat venture since the government started turning the boats back to Indonesia on December 19 last year.
Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, has expressed his own reservations about the policy. But Mr Morrison says his government will continue to “do what we need to do”.