The Green Party leader Bob Brown said neither party’s asylum seeker policy had regard for the welfare those arriving by boat.
“The idea that either Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott is formulating policy here based on the safety of asylum seekers coming by boat is nonsense, it’s absolute rubbish,” he said.
But UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said the agency wasn’t against regional processing arrangements for asylum seekers.
“We do support the general idea of strong and effective national procedures being complemented by regional and comprehensive protection arrangements,” he said.
“But so far, until we see more detail, it’s hard to comment more thoroughly.”
Ms Gillard said the finer points were being worked out.
“I will be relentlessly pursuing discussions in the region about the regional processing centre,” she said.
“The idea here is a simple one, but obviously it’s going to take time to work through.”
Meanwhile, an influential East Timorese parliamentarian says he doesn’t want his island nation to become a processing centre for asylum seekers.
Fretilin MP Jose Teixeira, who is a member of East Timor’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee, says no details have been announced concerning any processing centre.
The Australian government wants to process asylum seekers in East Timor, but it’s not clear if the fledgling nation will agree.
East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta has given his in-principle support, but Mr Teixeira said that the president doesn’t run the country.
“Mr Ramos-Horta is not head of government and doesn’t have any constitutional powers over immigration or asylum seekers and we have all been taken aback by his comments,” Mr Teixeira said.
“There’s been no details, but in principle, any form of a processing centre of the type that’s been discussed are not acceptable.
“It’s an unfair burden to set upon us as an emerging society that has a number of social, economic and other pressures on us, it’s unfair to put that additional pressure on us.”
Ramos-Horta indicated he was open-minded to the proposal.
“If we’re to do it, we do it out of our personal humanitarian, our collective convictions in helping other poor people who flee persecution,” he said.
“I would never turn my back on people who flee violence in Afghanistan or wherever, but on a temporary basis.”
“I wouldn’t want Timor Leste to become an island prison for displaced persons fleeing … violence.”
“If they were here, they will have to have certain freedoms.”
He planned to speak to East Timor’s Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao in the next day or so about the proposal; both would want to hear more details.
The processing centre would be up and running some time next year, Immigration Minister Chris Evans said.
Mr Evans admitted that element of Labor’s new border protection policy couldn’t be implemented any time soon.
“There are serious negotiations with other countries to occur,” he said.
“They won’t occur in a matter of days, or necessarily a few weeks.”