CANBERRA _ Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has received support for his hardline stance on negotiating asylum seeker policy from former Howard senior staffer Senator Arthur Sinodinos.
Nanjing Night Net

Mr Abbott has refused invitations from the Prime Minister to sit down and nut out a solution to stop the influx of boat people, saying Labor must put something concrete on the table first.

Even Immigration Minister Chris Bowen’s offer to share a Christmas lunch and “talk turkey” didn’t sway the Liberal leader.

“I am happy to spend it (Christmas) negotiating on this issue if the government is prepared to put a specific proposal forward,” Mr Abbott said.

“My holidays are not as important as sorting this out. But we can only sort it out if the government is prepared to take a position.”

However, the government insists outlining a position would amount to labelling certain policy ideas off-limits.

This latest stoush over asylum seeker policy was prompted by the drowning of more than 200 people after their boat capsized on the weekend.

Only 49 people have been rescued.

Rescuers have so far found more than 50 bodies, and another 150 people are feared dead.

Senator Sinodinos drew a parallel with the Tampa crisis in 2001.

In that case, he said, then prime minister John Howard took prompt action to draft a policy package addressing the situation.

Mr Howard presented the package to the Labor opposition to try to get bipartisan support.

“It’s an obligation on the government to come up with a more complete package,” Senator Sinodinos told Sky News.

“We don’t run the country. The government does.”

Liberal backbencher Philip Ruddock -_ a former immigration minister _ has suggested Labor’s Malaysian solution could work so long as Kuala Lumpur formalises a promise not to return asylum seekers to countries where they may be persecuted.

Mr Bowen was asked repeatedly whether a compromise containing elements of Labor and Coalition policies could be an option.

He maintained his line that the government wasn’t ruling anything in or out.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.