National

No radical refugee policy changes: Labor

By AAP Newswire

Senior Labor MP Tony Burke has shut down a push from within the party to adopt radical changes to its asylum-seeker policy.

Some refugee advocates within Labor are calling for an end to offshore processing and boat turnbacks ahead of the party's national conference.

Fairfax Media is reporting that delegates aligned to Labor for Refugees are expected to put forward motions to close offshore processing centres.

But Mr Burke said a similar article appeared before every national Labor conference

"Every national conference has been a determination that we don't adopt any policy that would start the drownings again," the manager of opposition business told Sky News on Sunday.

"If you stop the turnbacks policy, I don't think there is any doubt that the drownings would commence again.

"I don't mind that there's some delegates who have that view and they push it, but they haven't been in the majority in the past."

A push to urgently transfer sick asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia has been put off until parliament resumes in February.

The legislation would allow critically ill refugees to be flown to Australia for medical treatment on the advice of two doctors.

Labor teamed up with the Greens and the crossbench in a bid to get the bill through, but the government believed changes would compromise Australia's border protection policies.

The coalition has denied it prevented a vote on the bill to avoid an embarrassing defeat in the lower house - the first of its kind in almost 90 years.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the government will continue to "fight" the changes.

"This is about Labor wanting to weaken border protection policies," Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.

"The government must be in control of border protection policy. You can't contract that out to two doctors on Skype.

"Just don't change it, Bill (Shorten), leave it exactly as it is."

Mr Morrison said there were less than 10 children left in detention on Nauru, with four soon to be transferred to the United States.