THE government would have to drop its Malaysia plan to break the policy deadlock on asylum seekers, regardless of the recommendations in a report today by an expert panel, after the opposition reaffirmed it would not allow it in any circumstances.
It came as the government left the door open to introduce a version of temporary protection visas, with the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, saying the government would consider any recommendations that did not require legislation.
Labor and the Coalition were at a standoff last night, prepared to suggest only limited compromise and saying they needed first to see the findings of the expert panel.
Three more boats carrying a total of 178 asylum seekers were intercepted at the weekend. The interceptions, within 24 hours, take to 650 the number of asylum seekers picked up this month.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, set up the panel - comprising the retired Defence Force chief Angus Houston, a refugee expert, Paris Aristotle, and Howard government diplomat and former foreign affairs chief, Michael L'Estrange - in June, when Parliament failed to agree on a policy to stop people smuggling.
Labor agreed to re-open the Nauru detention centre if the Coalition allowed the government to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia as a deterrent. The Coalition refuses to compromise, insisting on its original ''Pacific solution'', and the Greens oppose sending asylum seekers offshore.
The report is believed to contain options that canvass the policy positions of all interested parties. It is also understood to favour the government's more hardline approach.
Mr Bowen said people ''have had a gutful of this and want it sorted''. The government would respect the panel's findings and the Coalition should too.
His opposition counterpart, Scott Morrison, said the report was for the government to consider and the Coalition would respond to whatever was put to Parliament. But he said in no circumstances would the Coalition support anything that enabled the Malaysia plan.
''If they recommend a different thing altogether, we'll look at any new legislation on its merits,'' he said.
Based on departmental advice, Mr Bowen maintains the Malaysia plan has the best chance of stopping the boats and the government will not surrender it quickly.
Last week, Ms Gillard told the Herald Tony Abbott's opposition to Malaysia was another example of his being ''at war with the facts and the experts''.
But Mr Bowen hinted that if the panel recommend something else, the government would drop Malaysia.
''We can argue about the benefits of Malaysia, we can argue about the drawbacks of Nauru, but the time for that has passed,'' he told the ABC program Insiders.
There have been unsubstantiated rumours that the panel has recommended a form of temporary protection visas, which would not require legislation.