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Labor rejects asylum-seeker visa block

AAP logoAAP 7/11/2016 Paul Osborne and Lisa Martin

Malcolm Turnbull will need the backing of Pauline Hanson and other crossbenchers for a crackdown on asylum-seeker visas after Labor decided to oppose government legislation.

The Labor caucus decision on Tuesday to reject the lifetime visa ban on asylum seekers who use people smugglers sparked a furious government attack in parliament.

The laws would effectively mean that if an asylum seeker or refugee who arrived on a boat is resettled in another country, they will never be able to come to Australia on a tourism, business or any other sort of visa without the immigration minister's special permission.

In announcing the decision, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor would not support the "desperate gesture by a floundering government".

"We are on a unity ticket with the government to stop the people smugglers, but we are not on a unity ticket to stop the tourists," he said.

The prime minister said Labor was trivialising asylum-seeker deaths at sea.

"We know the leader of the opposition is giving in again to the Left of his party just as Kevin Rudd did in 2008 and 2009," Mr Turnbull said.

As the government was working on finding third countries for resettlement it was important to send an "unequivocal signal" to people smugglers that the people they are exploiting will never come to Australia, he said.

Labor said at no time had the government said the legislation was directly connected to a pending deal with a third country.

Mr Shorten said the idea of a citizen of Canada or the United States not being allowed to visit Australia 30 or 40 years down the track was unacceptable.

"In many ways the government's latest proposal is a solution looking for the problem," he said.

The latest Essential poll shows 56 per cent of voters support the laws, with 29 per cent disapproving and 15 per cent unsure. This includes 52 per cent of Labor voters.

Earlier Mr Dutton gave the strongest indication yet of an imminent resettlement agreement for asylum seekers and refugees now in limbo on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

"We are going to land a deal," he told reporters.

The draft laws exempt those aged under 18 at the time they were first transferred to Nauru.

The minister is given discretion to exempt people if it is in the "public interest".

Amnesty International described the government's plan as "another layer of cruelty" in a deliberately abusive policy.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said there were economic reasons for stopping the boats, as under Labor the immigration budget had blown out by $11 billion.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said there were security reasons for the new laws.

"It is very well known that some of the perpetrators of recent terror attacks in Europe have entered the target countries illegally," he told parliament.

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