Opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles has backed claims by shadow treasurer Chris Bowen that Labor would be tested within days by people smugglers seeking to resume the trade.
“I think it is very likely that a new Labor government would be tested by people smuggling networks,” Mr Marles told ABC Radio on Monday.
“I think it is very likely that within the first days of a Labor government, we would be put in a position of needing to turn a boat around.”
It comes after opposition frontbencher Anthony Albanese, who remains personally opposed to turn backs and voted against the policy at the ALP national conference, insisted Labor wouldn’t need to turn any boats around thanks to its doubling of the humanitarian intake.
Labor has sought to brush off claims of disunity around the turn back policy after frontbenchers Tanya Plibersek and Penny Wong avoided personally voting on the proposal, instead handing their votes to a proxy.
Opposition frontbencher Andrew Leigh said while there was disagreement over turn-backs, “that was just one part of a larger conversation”.
Mr Marles said Labor’s turn-backs would work the same way as the current government’s. But he insists Labor would ensure its policies “pass muster” with the UN’s refugee agency.
Labor would continue assessing asylum seekers at sea but would consider assessing people onshore before they’re transferred to Nauru or Manus Island, he said.
“We would want the full suite of measures which are available to the government now,” he said.
Mr Marles said finding a resolution for 2000 asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island would be Labor’s core business but he ruled out bringing them to Australia.
Retired Major General Jim Molan, who helped write the government’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy, says Labor doesn’t have the resolve necessary to make the policy work.
He says they’re overly concerned with turn-backs and offshore processing instead of focussing on the task of border control.
“I don’t think that they have any idea of the importance of resolve in coming up with a policy and making that policy work,” he told ABC TV.