Liberal MP warns of compassionate overload


Government whip Andrew Nikolic worries some of his federal parliamentary colleagues are trying to "out-compassion" each other on refugee intakes.

"What we need to do is act on the basis of evidence, not throw figures out there," the Liberal MP told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Any final decision on how to help refugees should be bipartisan, he said.

Mr Nikolic's comments come after Liberal senator Cory Bernardi told parliament on Monday the refugee crisis in Europe was becoming an "opportunistic cycle" that was masking the true humanitarian need of persecuted Syrians.

The outspoken senator accused Greens leader Richard Di Natale of using the image of a drowned Syrian toddler to evoke emotion.

Senator Bernardi is concerned about a growing trade in fake Syrian passports and Pakistanis ditching their documents and pretending to be from the war-ravaged nation.

"Of course there is a problem, but you cannot just open your borders and allow any number of people come through without the checks," he said.

Senator Di Natale says Prime Minister Tony Abbott is effectively "turning his back" on some of the world's most vulnerable.

Even if Mr Abbott agreed to fast-track the three-year increase in the humanitarian intake from 13,750 to 18,750 it wouldn't be enough, he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

Senior Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said Senator Bernardi was an embarrassment to the parliament who "just goes off" without thinking through the implications of what he says.

Liberal MP Ewen Jones asked reporters: "Do you really expect anything other than that from someone like Cory?"

Mr Jones is proposing Australia take up to 50,000 refugees, saying he wants Australia to be "a very strong advocate".

"We have to understand what's at stake here ... this is a long term thing, not a short term thing," he said.

Liberal colleague Dan Tehan said it was better to wait for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to conclude talks in Europe with UN refugee agency officials and other governments.

Labor wants the government to provide 10,000 additional places under its humanitarian program for those caught up in the Syrian crisis.

Senator Sam Dastyari hopes Mr Abbott will "fall on the right side", even if it was a couple of days late.

But Nationals MP Andrew Broad suggested it would be better to spend the money helping people in refugee camps in the countries surrounding Syria.

"When you've got nine million people displaced, 10,000 people ... is really just a spoonful off the top," he said.

"If we can essentially make sure that people are fed and secure, that needs to be looked at."

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie will ask parliament to support an emergency intake of 30,000 refugees.