Labor asylum reversal push fails

A push to reverse Labor's support for offshore processing of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island has failed, with the party instead calling on the Abbott government to treat detainees humanely.

Labor MPs Melissa Parke and Anna Burke brought a divisive motion to Tuesday's caucus meeting that called for Labor to ''no longer support the transfer of asylum seekers by Australia to Manus Island or Nauru'' and ''detention centres in those places to be closed forthwith''.

The motion was introduced three weeks after Labor immigration spokesman Richard Marles had publicly confirmed the ALP's support for offshore processing in a National Press Club address.

But Mr Marles headed off a damaging internal debate over asylum policy, defeating the push to reverse the party's support for offshore processing.

He put forward an alternative motion in the party's caucus meeting in a move designed to defuse tensions over the hardline approach to asylum seekers.

The motion stated that ''asylum seekers should be afforded safe, dignified and humane conditions while awaiting refugee status determinations''.

It also called for refugee claims to be processed in a ''timely manner'' to avoid asylum seekers being left in a state of uncertainty.

Ms Parke's motion was backed by Ms Burke, Tasmanian senator Lisa Singh and many on the Left.

Mr Marles' motion, which was supported by NSW senator Sam Dastyari, was easily carried.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten praised the ''civility'' of the debate, which has been plaguing Labor since the Tampa incident in 2001.

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