Gillard tries to drum up support

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard hit the airwaves this morning in an attempt to pressure Coalition and Greens senators to back Rob Oakeshott's migration bill.

Mr Oakeshott's private members bill, to allow for offshore processing, passed the lower house on Tuesday night after an exhaustive, emotional and at times heated debate.

But the bill appears destined to be defeated in the Senate, with the Greens and Opposition each opposed to it, albeit for very different reasons.

The Opposition is refusing to support the bill in its current form because it would pave the way for Australia to send asylum seekers to Malaysia, which is a member of the Bali process but not a signatory to the UN's Refugee Convention.

Mr Oakeshott's bill would also make it possible for offshore processing in Nauru, a key tenet of the Coalition's policy.

The Greens are opposed to any form of offshore processing and will not compromise.

Debate began in the Senate just before 10am, with a number of passionate contributions already.

Earlier Ms Gillard did the TV breakfast show circuit, appearing on Sunrise and Today, before doing radio interviews with the ABC's AM program and 3AW in Melbourne.

She said senators faced a "stark choice" and urged them to "look into their conscience".

"Either they vote for this bill and we will leave this parliament with laws so that we can process people offshore, or they continue to play politics and we end this parliament with nothing effective done," she said during her appearance on Today.

"I believe the time for politics is over, the senate must act and must endorse what the House of Representatives passed yesterday."

Meanwhile, four people are feared drowned after a boat capsized north of Christmas Island.

Customs said it believed the boat was carrying 134 people, 130 of whom have been rescued. While one body was recovered on Wednesday afternoon, three people remained missing.

The boat sank just 24km east of where another vessel carrying asylum seekers went down last week. Up to 90 people are believed to have died in that incident, with 110 survivors.

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