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We won't be complacent on boats: Turnbull

AAP logoAAP 6/11/2016 Katina Curtis

Malcolm Turnbull has warned Australia risks becoming complacent about border protection as he defended a plan to ban asylum seekers from ever getting visa to enter the country.

Government legislation to be introduced to parliament this week would enshrine in law a bipartisan message to anyone seeking to come to Australia by boat with a people smuggler, the prime minister said.

Labor has dismissed the plan as ridiculous while refusing to say whether it will back the move, prompting Mr Turnbull to accuse Opposition leader Bill Shorten of "pandering to the left of his party".

Critics say the lifetime ban is unnecessary because the government has successfully stopped the boats.

"If I took that suggestion seriously, I would be heading down the same road of complacency and catastrophe that Kevin Rudd did," Mr Turnbull told ABC radio on Monday.

Labor examined the government's draft legislation over the weekend and will settle on a position at a caucus meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Shorten on Sunday described the measure as ridiculous and over the top.

"This is a classic case of Bill Shorten pandering to the left of his party, that has always hated the coalition (and) John Howard's border protection policy," Mr Turnbull said.

"Shorten has got to stop trying to walk both sides of the street."

Mr Shorten raised the hypothetical case of an asylum seeker now on Nauru or Manus Island who went on to win a Nobel Prize and wanted to attend an academic conference in Australia but couldn't because of the visa ban.

The prime minister said that wasn't beyond conceivable but there was ministerial discretion built into the laws.

"You've got the flexibility in the legislation that we are proposing to enable that case to be dealt with, and the minister in 40 years' time will no doubt make a sensible decision in the public interest," he said.

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