Prime Minister Julia Gillard has struck a formal deal with Papua New Guinea to open an asylum seeker centre in an effort to fireproof Labor’s new Pacific solution against any High Court challenge.
Ms Gillard met with her PNG counterpart Peter O’Neill this afternoon on the sidelines of a summit of regional leaders in Vladivostok.
Mr O’Neill had said only last week a new written arrangement with Australia was not required to reopen a detention centre on Manus Island.
But Ms Gillard said after legal advice amendments had been needed to bring the PNG agreement into line with a similar deal struck last week with Nauru.
Ms Gillard also met with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and the two agreed to ask officials to discuss the Malaysia people swap, struck down last year by the High Court.
But she said there was no timeline for finalizing a deal.
Mr O’Neill said it was in the hands of the Australian government how long it would take to open the centre and PNG’s only pre-condition was for Australia to improve to facilities on Manus Island.
This is a regional issue, we’re not interested in making money out of it,’’ he said.
Ms Gillard said she aimed to see people transferred to Nauru by the end of the month but again would not put a timeline on how long asylum seekers could spend on the Island.
Labor has controversially adopted a ‘’no advantage’’ idea put forward in a report by former defence chief Angus Houston last month that says asylum seekers should not receive earlier settlement after coming to Australia by boat.
But there is no average time for refugees to be resettled through conventional mechanisms, with some waiting years for an outcome.