Immigration Minister Chris Bowen urged Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to change his mind and said the invitation remained open.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen urged Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to change his mind and said the invitation remained open. Chris Ison

Oppn wants details on reference group

THE Opposition is refusing to accept the Federal Government's invitation to join the multi-party reference group formed to help break the asylum-seeker policy impasse.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the make-up of the group on Friday, which includes three Labor Party MPs, two from the Greens and two crossbenchers.

A letter was sent to the Opposition inviting it to nominate three MPs.

The government's three-person expert panel tasked with examining asylum seeker policy issues will be able to consult the group to "canvass the views of the parliament".

But the Coalition won't even consider taking part until it sees the group's terms of reference.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison described the formation of the group as a "committee solution" to a serious problem.

"It is not clear what the purpose of this group is in terms of its procedures," Mr Morrison said.

"Is it intended to provide a report, make recommendations, call for submissions, conduct hearings? What date should it report back? Who should it report to? The government? The parliament?

"None of the details have been set out by the Prime Minister in issuing her invitation.

"These I think are very reasonable things the coalition has asked for before considering any request that has been forward by the Prime Minister."

Mr Morrison said the coalition was willing to meet with the expert panel, which is being chaired by retired defence chief Angus Houston.

He said plans were under way for senior coalition members to meet with the panel in the "next few weeks".

"There will be no obstacle to the coalition engaging with Mr Houston on these matters and we don't necessarily see the need for a committee to facilitate that," he said.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen urged Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to change his mind and said the invitation remained open.

He urged individual coalition MPs to nominate, but said it was "a matter for them".

Liberal Party backbenchers Mal Washer and Judi Moylan were prominent during the tense negotiations in Canberra last week as both houses of parliament worked in vain to arrive at a policy solution.

"If Mr Abbott refuses to participate that would be very disappointing indeed," Mr Bowen said.

"A number of Liberals have shown ... that they are prepared to work in good faith with the government."

The expert panel, which also comprises Paris Aristotle and Michael L'Estrange, has been asked to examine policy options and report back to parliament when it resumes on August 14.

REFERENCE GROUP

  • Wayne Swan (ALP)
  • Chris Bowen (ALP)
  • Stephen Jones (ALP)
  • Christine Milne (Greens)
  • Sarah Hanson-Young (Greens)
  • John Madigan (DLP)
  • Tony Windsor (IND)


Pair escape from wreck after car crashes near Toolara

Pair escape from wreck after car crashes near Toolara

Emergency services respond to single car crash.

Trio eyes Gympie's Miss Showgirl title, ready to have a ball

Trio eyes Gympie's Miss Showgirl title, ready to have a ball

Preparations for the Gympie Show Ball are heating up.

Letter: Why Fredman should win the by-election for Div 8

Letter: Why Fredman should win the by-election for Div 8

His disdain for groundless bureaucracy meant decisions were quick

Local Partners