A second asylum boat drama within days has sparked emotional scenes in Parliament as MPs vote on a potential border protection compromise.
With survivors being rescued from the ocean 110 nautical miles north of Christmas Island, Prime Minister Julia Gillard moved swiftly to bar a vote on an opposition proposal that would have closed off the Malaysia solution.
Instead the government brought on a vote on independent Rob Oakeshott's Migrational Act amendment to break the deadlock, leading to tearful moments in parliament.
Ms Gillard said the time for the party divide on the issue was ''at an end'' and if Mr Oakeshott's bill passed the parliament, the government would reopen an asylum-seeker processing centre on Nauru''.
''I don't believe members of the parliament should now just sit here with possibly more tragedy to come,'' Ms Gillard said.
But Coalition MPs opposed the bill, arguing it was unlikely to pass the Senate and does not have adequate human rights protections.
Mr Oakeshott's "Bali Process" bill would allow the immigration minister to designate any nation as a suitable offshore assessment country - as long as it was party to the Bali Process, a group of more than 50 countries aimed at combating people smuggling.
Question time was delayed in order to consider the bill.
At least one suspected asylum seeker died and 125 others were rescued today after their boat sank on its way to Australia but it is unclear how many may be unaccounted for.
Authorities scrambled to avert a second disaster at sea when the boat carrying Afghans capsized 107 nautical miles north of Christmas Island
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott asked for more time for the Coalition to consider the bill but Ms Gillard said that the "eyes of the nation" were upon the parliament given today's incident.
"I do believe there is some urgency in the House dealing with this matter now," she said.
Mr Oakeshott told parliament that his bill should pass parliament, because of "events of the last decade" as well as the events of today.
"I urge the house to finally pass this bill.''
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said Australians had had a ‘‘gutful’’ of parliament fighting on the issue.
‘‘They are sick of us fighting, they are sick of the politics, they are sick of hearing of more people dying, they are sick of us yelling at each other,’’ he said. ‘‘They just want us to fix this.’’
But the bill has not failed to earn the support of either the Greens or of Coalition MPs.
Greens MP Adam Bandt said he would not support the bill " [because] it rips up the Refugee Convention".
Coalition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison acknowledged the "good intentions" of MPs such as Mr Oakeshott but said that good intentions were "not enough".
He moved an amendment to restrict countries that could be used for offshore processing to those that have signed UN Refugee Convention - thereby ruling out Malaysia.
Coalition Customs spokesman Michael Keenan became choked with emotion as he recalled the Christmas Island tragedy of 2010, where about 50 people died.
He said that after deep reflection he did not support the Malaysia plan.
"I've thought long and hard about it," Mr Keenan told Parliament
He echoed Mr Morrison's words, saying that good intentions were not enough, as policies needed to be "effective".
Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull said that politics was the "art of the possible" and that the bill would not pass the Senate, due to opposition from the Greens and the Coalition.
"What is this about other than an effort to embarrass the Coalition?" he asked.
Mr Turnbull said that parliament should act to reopen offshore processing on Nauru and if that did not work, then Ms Gillard could argue again for the Malaysia solution.
Mr Abbott said that Ms Gillard should be happy with the amendments suggested by the Coalition, because of her previous statement ruling out countries that were not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention.
"The important thing today is to go forward from this House with a bill that will pass the parliament," he said .
‘‘It is very important if this debate is to bring about progress rather than mere noise, that the bill that comes out of this chamber is one with a strong chance of passing the Senate.’’
He said that under the Malaysia deal the boats would "keep coming" because of the government's policy that women and children would not be sent to Malaysia.
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