Oakeshott wants boats solution

INDEPENDENT MP Rob Oakeshott wants Australia's federal politicians to stay in Canberra until they find a way to break the impasse on asylum-seeker policy.

The issue is again dominating Australia's political agenda after a boat bound for Australia capsized north of Christmas Island on Thursday.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare briefed the parliament during question time on Monday, indicating no further bodies had been recovered since Sunday.

The number of confirmed dead stood at 17, with more than 70 people still missing. Mr Clare said the total number of dead may never be known.

Mr Clare revealed during his address nine accompanied minors were among the 110 survivors.

Mr Oakeshott has a bill before the parliament designed to deliver a compromise on asylum seeker policy after the High Court ruled against Labor's Malaysian people swap deal in August last year.

The bill would allow the immigration minister to select any nation for the purpose of offshore processing as long as it was party to the Bali Process, a regional approach to combating people smuggling.

Mr Oakeshott told ABC radio the past four parliaments had failed to arrive at a satisfactory policy outcome on the contentious issue.

"The ongoing dysfunction of policy should be making this an urgent issue, and you know we're all going home at the end of this week," he told The World Today.

"If we can't resolve it by the end of the week, I'd certainly be one calling for the parliament to continue to sit until this can be resolved."

Parliament rises on Thursday for the winter break and will not resume until August 14.

The Member for Lyne admitted his bill was probably one vote short of passing, unless "someone gives somewhere and sees in my view the sense and reason of having a bilateral, cooperative arrangement and not only across the parliament but with our regional neighbours".

"It is a policy that not only works for a Julia Gillard government around Malaysia or any other options they want to use, it is also the enabling legislation for a Tony Abbott government around Nauru or any other options they want to use," he said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott ignored several questions on the issue as he was leaving the launch of Australia's Paralympic team in Parliament House.

Both he and Prime Minister Julia Gillard spoke briefly about the tragedy before question time on Monday.

The Opposition used much of question time to hone in on the carbon tax, which comes into effect on Sunday.

But question time was brought to a premature end when Mr Abbott attempted to censure Ms Gillard.

The unsuccessful censure came a day after the two-year anniversary of Ms Gillard's infamous ascension to the prime ministership.

Ms Gillard left the chamber for the ensuing debate - during which Mr Abbott attacked the government on a number of fronts - prompting Mr Abbott to say she was "seeking asylum in the chief whip's office".

The line drew rebukes from Labor backbencher Graham Perrett and Treasurer Wayne Swan.

In an interview with ABC television after question time Ms Gillard said the government was willing to "put politics aside" and act on a compromise that would include elements of the Opposition's Nauru policy.

"To get something done we need to work across the parliament," she said.

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