Another sinking brings asylum debate to a head
Authorities have confirmed another asylum seeker boat has capsized north of Christmas Island, with an estimated 130 people onboard.
Prime minister Julia Gillard has told Parliament there is reason to believe 120 people have been rescued.
It is believed the boat was mainly occupied by Afghans, and women and children were on board.
The incident follows the sinking of another boat in the Indian Ocean last Thursday, with around 200 people onboard.
Follow the latest developments below:
2:21: Rob Oakeshott is addressing Parliament:
"I would like to reiterate that this bill should pass this Parliament. Not only because of events today but because of events of the last decade.
"And I urge all members of this House to at least allow this be tried and by all means, if it doesn't work, take it to the next election, take it to the people."
2:19pm: Watch Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison address the media:
2:13pm: Rob Oakeshott wrote to all MPs in March to explain his legislation:
2:10pm: ABC political reporter Latika Bourke has tweeted:
PM Julia Gillard says Labor will reopen Nauru and proceed with Malaysia swap if Oakeshott bill is passed.
2:00pm: The Prime Minister is addressing Parliament:
"As this Parliament sits, we have planes in the air, merchant vessels on the scene, and HMAS Maitland has arrived.
"I'm advised that the HMAS Maitland arrived on the scene about an hour ago. I am also advised a Royal Australian Air Force maritime patrol aircraft carrying life rafts has flown to attend to the scene.
"Our numbers obviously can change but there is reason to believe that there are around 123 to 133 people on board. As we speak, my best advice is that 123 people have been rescued.
""Madam Deputy Speaker, in view of these events and in view of the events of last week, I want to say to the Parliament now most sincerely that I believe the time for the party divide on this issue is at an end.
"We have seen too much tragedy. And I can't, and I don't believe other members of Parliament can now sit here with the prospect of more tragedy to come.
"In these circumstances, I have asked that Mr Oakeshott be prepared at this moment to bring on his bill on immigration amendments so that the House can now, I hope, by leave and in agreement deal with it to finality.
"I actually think it's of significance to this Parliament that this is a bill brought to this place by an Independent member of Parliament. Given all of the circumstances here ... Deputy Speaker, I, as a Labor leader, would want to walk from this place saying no-one won, no-one lost, we just got something done.
"And I think an Independent member's bill gives us all the opportunity to do just that, to go from this place saying no-one won, no-one lost, it wasn't about party politics, it wasn't about who's got what sort of party trick in their pocket, we just worked together do get something done."
1:59: Indonesia correspondent Matt Brown report that Indonesian officials say they received a message from the Australian Rescue Coordination Centre about a boat in distress early this morning.
The message said the boat’s generator had broken down. The message also included a satellite telephone number being used by the people onboard.
Matt Brown says Indonesia’s search and rescue authorities are poorly coordinated and most of their navy is focused on the busy shipping lanes and maritime border to the north.
1:54: Indonesia correspondent Helen Brown ?has tweeted that an Indonesian search and rescue official says he is en-route to a Hercules plane to be flown to the area of the sinking boat.
1:51: Tony Abbott's attempts to introduce private members bill to amend the Immigration Act was brought to an end at 1:45pm by standing order that permits 90-second statements by MPs.
His request for exception in this case is rejected.
1:50: Stephen Spencer has tweeted:
ALP has 31 votes in the Senate. 39 needed for majority. So, 8 LNP senators would need to cross, or 6 + 2 indies.
1:48: David Speers from Sky News has tweeted:
Even if Oakeshott bill passes reps, would still face defeat in the senate by the greens
1:46: Tony Abbott has reaffirmed the Coalition's stance on the Malaysia solution:
"Now this Coalition does not, will not ever support the processing of ... illegal maritime arrivals in Malaysia."
1:38: Tony Abbott is introducing his Private Members Bill into Parliament to guarantee offshore processing in countries that have signed UN refugee convention. Malaysia has not signed the convention.
1:36: Prime Minister Julia Gillard will address the House at 2:00pm.
Ms Gillard plans to suspend Question Time so Parliament can vote on Independent MP Rob Oakeshott’s legislation, which is aimed at allowing offshore processing and breaking the political stalemate.
Some more analysis of Mr Oakeshott's legislation.
1:24: ABC political reporter Sabra Lane has tweeted:
Q to TA this is not a compromise, you just want to bring a vote on coalition's policy? TA: we're trying to find common ground.
1:18: Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is addressing the media in Canberra:
"This is obviously another grim day to our north. We've had two disasters at sea in less than a week as the boats just keep coming and coming and coming.
"I will be going into the Parliament at the conclusion of this press conference to seek immediately to introduce the Coalition's private member's bill to put beyond legal doubt the ability of the Australian Government to process illegal maritime arrivals in any country that has signed the UN Refugee Convention.
"The Government has had a range of different positions; first of all it didn't support offshore processing, then it did support offshore processing in countries that had signed the UN convention. More recently it supports offshore processing at a country that doesn't - hasn't subscribed to the convention, namely Malaysia.
"So, in the light of this tragedy, we think, as a Coalition, that the Parliament should do what it can immediately to enable a stronger policy response from the Government.
"I believe we fairly and squarely occupy the centre ground. I think we fairly and squarely occupy centre ground between the Greens who don't want any offshore processing at all, and the Government which wants offshore processing without protections. We want offshore processing with protections."
1:15: Watch Indonesia correspondent Matt Brown speak to ABC News 24:
1:10: Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Opposition Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison due to address the media shortly.
1:06: Watch Jo Meehan from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority speaking to ABC News 24:
1:00: John Richardson from the Christmas Island volunteer Marine Rescue says something has to be done to try to stop the boats from attempting the dangerous journey.
"It is ... the second time it has happened in a week and there are a lot of people on the island echoing the sentiment that something has to be done."
12:48: Indonesia correspondent Matt Brown has told ABC News 24 the Indonesian search and rescue centre have said Afghans are believed to have been onboard the boat.
"Importantly, when the distress signal went out this morning the message was that there were women and children on board this vessel as well."
12:43: Labor MP Graham Perrett has tweeted:
150 people in the water, RIGHT NOW. That's one for every single elected free-thinking Member of the House of Representatives. ?#stopthedeaths
12:40: Watch ABC News 24's live cross with the Lyndal Curtis on the latest on the disaster:
12:38: Here's a photo of the P3 Orion search plane that has been sent to the scene.
12:35pm: Mal Larsen from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority says there are people in the water and one of the merchant vessels is doing its best to pluck them out.
12:30pm: Customs and Border Protection are reporting the boat has sunk completely.
12:25pm: The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has released a statement about the incident:
"Australian Government agencies are currently responding to reports of a second vessel in distress approximately 107 nautical miles, or just under 200km, north of Christmas Island and about 100 nautical miles, or around 185km, south of Indonesia."
"Initial reports are than up to 150 people may be on board. Two merchant vessels are currently on the scene.
"Border Protection Command has also deployed its vessels and aircraft to assist with the operation.
"No further details are available at this time. More information will be provided as it becomes available."
12:20pm: Jo Meehan says someone on the vessel contacted the Australian Federal Police by phone:
"We received the call via the Australian Federal Police. The vessel had used a phone on the vessel to contact the AFP and they forwarded that information directly to the RCC and to border protection command."
"We then, accordingly, forwarded it to our Indonesian counterparts and assumed coordination of the response.
Ms Meehan also confirmed the the capsizing took place in the same area as last week's disaster:
"The previous incident was about 120 nautical miles south of Java so it is in the same vicinity. It is definitely in Indonesian waters."
12:10pm: AMSA spokeswoman Jo Meehan says one of the merchant vessels arrived on the scene at about four hours after the distress call was made.
Ms Meehan says conditions are "fair, not ideal".
She says a P3 Orion search plane is expected on the scene at about 1:30pm, and a second Navy boat, HMAS Leeuwin, is also on its way and expected to arrive about 4:00pm.
12:06pm: HMAS Maitland is on its way to the capsized boat but it is likely to take two hours to get there, according to AMSA.
11:50am: A spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority says two merchant vessels are on site and have begun rescuing survivors.
The distress call came through at about 6:20am (AEST) when the boat was 107 nautical miles north of the Island.
AMSA says a Navy ship is also on its way.
This latest disaster comes days after another boat carrying more than 200 asylum seekers capsized nearby, killing up to 90 people.
- All times are AEST