Senior Labor MPs say it is possible to adopt a hard line on asylum seekers that is also compassionate.
They were responding to former foreign affairs minister Bob Carr's advice to the party, revealed in _The West Australian _ yesterday, that it shy away from a "Greens-Left-Fairfax-ABC position" on boat people.
Senator Carr, who will soon announce his retirement from Federal politics, advised the party's Right faction not to allow daylight between Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Labor on asylum seeker policy, observing there was a "neuralgic connection" between western Sydney and boat arrivals.
Newly elected deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek, the daughter of Slovenian migrants, said there was nothing compassionate about allowing dangerous boat journeys from Indonesia.
"I guess the difference with my parents was that they waited in refugee camps in Austria and Italy and they were offered a choice between Canada and Australia," she told ABC radio yesterday. "I understand how hard it is to come to a new country and to build up a family and find a home for yourself and find a job and learn a new language - I get that probably better than most.
"But it doesn't make me think that people getting on a boat in Indonesia and making a dangerous journey here is the best way to have a compassionate approach to refugees and asylum seekers."
Former immigration minister Brendan O'Connor said he did not want genuine asylum seekers vilified but nor did he want people dying at sea.
Coalition Government frontbencher Simon Birmingham said Senator Carr had given Labor some "sage advice".