Opposition leader Bill Shorten says Labor would support an asylum seeker deal between Australia and the United States.
There are reports Canberra and Washington will soon announce an immigration arrangement that could clear up to 1800 refugees from Nauru and Manus Island.
Mr Shorten welcomed the idea “in principle” while at a Remembrance Day farewell in Darwin on Friday evening for 400 ANZAC diggers about to deploy to Iraq.
“We obviously need to see the detail but I think that our strong bipartisan commitment to stop the scourge of people smuggling does not mean that people need to be kept in indefinite detention,” Mr Shorten said.
“We need strong borders but fair treatment as well.”
Meanwhile Stephanie Anderson of the ABC reports that Coalition frontbencher Christopher Pyne says there would be plenty of time to put a refugee resettlement deal in place with the US before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has been in negotiations to find a third country willing to take asylum seekers, and The Australian newspaper is reporting that an agreement with the US could be unveiled within days.
Mr Pyne would not be drawn on the reported deal, but told Channel Nine that if it went ahead, there was “plenty of time” to put it in place before Mr Trump takes office in January.
“Peter Dutton and the Prime Minister will make the necessary announcements about Government policy in this area,” he said.
“But there’s certainly time. Two-and-a-half months is plenty of time, and if it’s the case it will be another great achievement from the Turnbull Government.”
Immigration Department Secretary Michael Pezzullo would not confirm if the Government was close to a deal during a Senate Committee hearing at Parliament House today.
Under questioning from Labor Senator Murray Watt, Mr Pezzullo would not be drawn on any timeframes for the negotiations.
“We’re working actively on those arrangements, and Mr Dutton said that we get closer every day, so today we are closer than what we were yesterday,” he said.
“When ministers are ready to pronounce on those sort of arrangements, I’m sure they will.”
Mr Pezzullo was also asked on what role the third country negotiations played with the proposed changes to the Migration Act, which passed the Lower House yesterday.
He said the legislation reflected “our own sovereign position” and would act as a “psychological deterrent” for people trying to arrive by boat in the future
Greens express concern
Greens Senator Nick McKim has voiced concerns that Mr Trump could “rip up” any resettlement agreement put in place.
Senator McKim also called for greater transparency on the negotiations.
“It’s incumbent on the Prime Minister to come out and be clear about what he’s talking about here,” he said.
“The entire country, in fact the entire world, is in the dark.”
Mr Trump has made a number of controversial comments on immigration, including a call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”.
His son, Donald Trump Junior, also made headlines during the campaign for Syrian refugees to deadly Skittles, tweeting: “If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem”.