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Abbott won t play ball on boat solution
Abbott won't play ball on boat solution

Foreign Minister Bob Carr says the major parties have to settle their differences on border protection to stop events similar to last week's boat tragedy.

Rescuers have managed to find 110 survivors who were on a boat that capsized on Thursday between Christmas Island and the Sunda Strait in Indonesia.

Six bodies have been found but on Sunday, as rescuers gave up hope of finding any more people alive, operations officially moved into body recovery mode. It's feared up to 90 asylum seekers may have drowned.

"I just hope this week we can reach out across the parliament and settle on something that is satisfactory to both sides, namely protection for our borders and orderly processing," Senator Carr told ABC TV on Sunday.

"I can't see a better way of doing that than the Malaysian solution."

The Labor government and the opposition both agree to the offshore processing of asylum seekers but differ on where and how it should occur.

The government's proposed solution involves a refugee swap deal with Malaysia but the High Court has ruled it unlawful.

The coalition won't back legislative changes because it wants to process asylum seekers on Nauru. The opposition has rejected a compromise plan involving both countries.

"Without the Malaysian orderly processing of asylum seekers we are loading problems including increased people smuggling into Indonesia ports," Senator Carr said.

"That results in tragedies like the terrible one that the Australian public is coming to terms with now."

Senator Carr said the current "Indonesia solution" was "wholly unsatisfactory".

"It is not protecting the borders, it is not saving lives," he said, adding the Malaysian solution would be a "huge disincentive" to stop people smuggling.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon agrees it's time for Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to talk to the government about a compromise.

"I don't think we can keep seeing these sorts of human tragedies occurring," Ms Roxon told Network Ten.

"Really the finger-pointing and point-scoring is well past its use-by date."

But Ms Roxon rejected the suggestion Labor should simply give up on Malaysia and accept the opposition's preferred policy of processing asylum seekers on Nauru and re-introducing temporary protection visas.

"I don't think that's called a compromise," she said.

"We are the government."

The attorney-general reiterated that Labor's compromise offer involved utilising Nauru as well as Malaysia.

However, Mr Abbott insisted today the opposition wouldn't be changing its position.

That's despite calls from Liberal backbencher Mal Washer for the opposition to put decency above politics and reconsider the Malaysian solution.

"What's needed here is not more bipartisanship but effective policies," Mr Abbott told reporters in Melbourne.

"What's needed here is not compromise for compromise sake."