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PM faces mutiny over asylum reversal
PM faces mutiny over asylum reversal

Besieged Prime Minister Julia Gillard is preparing for an attack from within her party over her stunning reversal on offshore processing of asylum seekers.

Members of the ALP's left faction are expected to complain about the Government reopening detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island at party-room meetings this week. They will demand answers about the time asylum seekers will be held in the camps and the conditions they face.

Labor members are also likely to demand that Ms Gillard raise Australia's humanitarian refugee intake from 13,750 a year to 20,000 as quickly as possible - as the Government's expert panel on asylum seekers recommended.

Those the Australian navy rescued two weeks ago told yesterday how hundreds of asylum seekers were still waiting in West Java after paying tens of thousands of dollars to a smuggling network.

They said Indonesian agents had demanded about $US2000 ($1918) extra for early places on boats to profit from fears about the Government's offshore solution.

Ms Gillard accepted coalition demands last week and agreed to reopen Howard government-era Pacific detention camps in Papua New Guinea and on impoverished Nauru as part of efforts to slow the number of asylum vessels.

An advance team of Australian Defence Force engineers has found the camps on Nauru and Manus Island in a poor state and taxpayers will probably have to fork out tens of millions of dollars on them.

In the meantime, the first asylum seekers shifted to either location face harsh conditions in tents and using bucket showers.

Ms Gillard said she was prepared for a showdown with left-wing members of her party in caucus.

"With respect, the feelings of me or any Labor member are a second-order issue, indeed a hundredth- order issue compared with saving lives at sea," the PM said.

"Yes this is a tough policy. And I understand for many people that it's emotionally hard for them - I've seen that written on the faces of some of my Labor colleagues."

She said some Liberal Party members who campaigned against offshore processing would also be uncomfortable with the regime.

Ms Gillard reinforced that no limit had been set for how long asylum seekers would be held - a sore point with refugee activists who say they could be left to rot in camps for more than five years.

There was a rush of boats to Australia late last week, with Immigration Minister Chris Bowen equating the surge to a closing-down sale by people smugglers.

A boat with 17 suspected asylum seekers was intercepted yesterday.

The Immigration Department also plans a confronting video of the Nauru and Manus Island camps to deter would-be boat people.

A spokesman said video producers were in reconnaissance teams at the camps to produce a video called Australia by boat? No advantage, to put on social media sites.