THE Labor caucus on Monday endorsed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's plan to send all refugees to Papua New Guinea as 81 new arrivals were already being assessed for transfer to the impoverished nation.
As angry crowds of protesters voiced their concerns at the new arrangements outside a special meeting of the caucus in Sydney, Labor heavyweights were voting to accept the deal.
Despite some internal opposition, including Speaker Anna Burke's vocal concerns, the PNG deal was a key Kevin Rudd initiative that received party endorsement on Monday.
Enacted on Friday, the new asylum-seeker deal will mean all those claiming asylum and arriving in Australia by boat will be transferred to PNG, and likely the Manus Island detention centre.
Within 24 hours of Mr Rudd and PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill signing the deal, a boat carrying 81 refugees was intercepted by Border Control authorities and transferred to the island.
All of those claiming asylum will now have to decide whether to continue their claims and be transferred to PNG, or to drop their claims and return to another third country.
Immigration Minister Tony Burke on Sunday said any new arrivals who drop their asylum claims would be helped to obtain travel documents.
"If they have successful claims for asylum then they will be taken to a place where they will not be subject to persecution, where they have proper accommodation, needs being looked after and where there are proper services in place," he said.
"Under no circumstances, though, will that place be Australia.
"For those who've arrived, who are now being considered under the new arrangement, any settlement for them will take place in a country other than Australia and the intention will be that they will be considered under the new arrangements within Papua New Guinea."
The Labor caucus also endorsed Mr Rudd's proposals for internal party reforms - to make it harder for parliamentary leaders to be deposed - and his plans bring forward an emissions trading scheme to July next year.
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