14 Aug 2012

Australian parliament debates asylum seeker laws

9:18 pm on 14 August 2012

The Australian government is introducing legislation on Tuesday to drastically change its asylum seeker laws.

It comes after an expert panel on Monday recommended reopening offshore processing centres, among 22 other measures to end Australia's asylum seeker stand-off.

It wants to reintroduce the processing of would-be refugees in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea says it is ready to help the Australian government.

However, a prominent Papua New Guinea politician says he will take legal action to stop a detention centre being reopened there.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says asylum seekers could begin arriving in Nauru and PNG within a month, after her government agreed to the expert panel's recommendations.

But Powes Parkop, a member of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's coalition government, says a detention centre contradicts PNG's law and culture.

Mr Parkop says the law does not allow people to be detained indefinitely in PNG.

He says it is not in PNG's culture to lock people up without a charge.

Meanwhile nearly 70 asylum seekers are feared to have drowned on their way to Australia.

Home affairs minister Jason Clare says Australian customs has been checking on reports the boat failed to arrive as planned six weeks ago.

He says there are no records of the people arriving in the country.