PM demands Coalition treat asylum panel with respect

THE Greens and Coalition must treat with ''the utmost seriousness and respect'' the recommendations of the expert panel on asylum seekers or incur the wrath of Australians, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said.

With the government to take receipt of the panel's findings on Monday and use them to break the policy deadlock which has paralysed the Parliament, Ms Gillard said voters would look unkindly on anyone rejecting independent expert advice.

''The Australian community is looking at getting an answer,'' Ms Gillard told the Herald.

''They want this issue addressed and taken off the table. They want compromise and they will be very disappointed if the only reaction from the Leader of the Opposition is to be once again at war with the facts and the experts.''

Despite Ms Gillard's threats, the chances of a breakthrough appear hopeless. While promising to treat the expert panel report ''with great respect'', the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, again made it clear the Coalition would not be swayed by its findings.

''The Coalition did not need to sub-contract out to a committee its policy on border protection. Only this Prime Minister has to sub-contract her job out to others,'' he said.

Already this year, a record number of people have been arriving by boat - including a vessel on Thursday carrying 211 passengers, the largest in a decade.This was followed last night by two boats which arrived at Cocos Island, carrying 55 passengers.

To stop people smugglers, Labor is prepared to compromise by processing asylum seekers on Nauru but is asking the Coalition in return to support sending 800 asylum seekers back to Malaysia as a deterrent.

The Coalition opposes Malaysia, despite the Immigration Department saying it had the best chance of working. The Greens oppose sending anyone offshore and six weeks ago Parliament failed to reach a compromise.

To increase pressure for a result when Parliament resumes next week, Ms Gillard appointed three experts - the retired defence force chief Angus Houston, the refugee expert Paris Aristotle, and the former diplomat and foreign affairs mandarin Michael L'Estrange - to consult all interested parties and recommend a policy solution.

It is understood the panel has prepared a menu of options and recommends the path advocated by the government.

Pressed on what she would do if the tactic fails, Ms Gillard said: ''Let's see the week unfold.''

The Home Affairs Minister, Jason Clare, said people were ''hurrying" to get onto boats before Parliament introduced any disincentives.

But he blamed political bickering for the impasse over asylum seeker policy, saying the navy would not have to work so hard if politicians worked together. He confirmed cracks have been discovered in several of the country's 14 patrol boats and structural tests were under way.

He said the navy had found cracks in HMAS Armidale's engine room - the part of the boat that comes under the most pressure in rough weather - and minor cracks in two other boats.

With the arrival of a boat laden with 211 people at Christmas Island, more than 7500 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia so far this year. That already exceeds the previous yearly record of 6900 in 2010.

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