Tony Abbott has shut the door on a political fix to the asylum-seeker deadlock, prompting a senior member of the Gillard Government to accuse him of seeking political advantage from boat people dying.
The Opposition Leader said yesterday that unless the Government reinstated Howard government policies, including processing people offshore and towing back boats, the Government could forget any assistance from the Opposition. "That's our position today," Mr Abbott said. "It's always been our position."
In frustration, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen questioned whether Mr Abbott had judged it beneficial for the coalition for the boats to keep coming.
"Could anybody argue the implementation of the Malaysia agreement and a detention facility at Nauru would not be a meaningful and real deterrent for the dangerous boat travel to Australia," Mr Bowen said.
Mr Bowen said the Liberals had either accepted expert advice their policies would not be effective and was laying the groundwork for the failure for them to be implemented, "or the Liberal Party has made a political calculation boat arrivals are in their ongoing political best interests".
Senior Labor MP Mark Dreyfus went further: "It's disgraceful the way in which (Mr Abbott) is approaching this. You're left thinking he sees political advantage in people dying - that's the real disgrace of this."
Backbench MPs from across Parliament will ratchet up the pressure on the leaders to find a compromise at a meeting this morning.
Independent MP Tony Windsor said the meeting, which is likely to be chaired by WA moderate Liberal Mal Washer, will attempt to find a "compassionate consensus" on border protection policy, with a focus on finding a regional solution.
The Greens yesterday proposed a multiparty committee to look at the issue but said they would not support offshore processing.