WA Liberal MP and refugee supporter Judi Moylan has urged Tony Abbott to stop boycotting a cross-party committee set up to end the boat people impasse.
Ms Moylan's call came as former Defence Force chief Chris Barrie - who was in charge when the navy turned back seven asylum seeker boats under John Howard - warned yesterday it was a dangerous tactic and should not be revived. "The problem about the policy is it drives people to very desperate measures, and I don't think that is something we should promote," he told the ABC.
"We've seen already examples of boats being set on fire and other accidents."
But Opposition Leader Mr Abbott claimed Admiral Barrie's views were being misrepresented and because the navy had turned boats back before, they could do it again.
"Admiral Barrie, along with all other serving members of the armed forces, understands that the armed forces are under the direction of the government of the day," he said.
Mr Abbott also said it was "misrepresentation" that Jakarta objected strongly to turning back boats, saying his colleagues spoke to Indonesian officials yesterday and they were "happy to work constructively with Australia".
But a senior Indonesian official said the country would object strongly to the coalition's policy.
"It's exactly like you going to someone else's house and throwing dirt there," the official said.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the "multi-party reference group" of MPs would work on asylum seeker policy alongside a three-person expert panel headed by another former Defence chief, Angus Houston, to try to break the political stalemate between Labor, the coalition and the Greens.
Three Labor MPs sit on the committee, along with two Greens and two crossbenchers.
The Opposition has been offered three spots but Mr Abbott said he wanted a specific terms of reference drafted for the committee.
Ms Moylan said Mr Abbott should take up the invitation. "I have for some time called for a bipartisan position on this," she said.
Ms Moylan said, if asked, she would like to serve on the committee but it was too early to speculate that she would defy Mr Abbott and take up the Government's offer.
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