There is heightened speculation the government will reopen the centre following a visit to PNG by Immigration Department Secretary Andrew Metcalfe and Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles.


But Ms Gillard on Friday would not confirm any such plans, saying only her government was working hard to deal with the problem of people smuggling.

“We have been pursuing discussions in our region and with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on a regional solution,” she told reporters.

“When I’ve got something to announce arising from those discussions then I’ll announce it.”

Asked about the recent official visits to PNG, Ms Gillard said: “Ministers and officials travel extensively on our region. That’s proper and appropriate.”

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PNG detention centre not enough: Abbott

Mr Abbott told the Nine Network on Friday that opening Manus Island alone would not stop boats coming to Australia, saying that although it had been part of the Howard government’s controversial “Pacific Solution”, it was not the whole solution.

“There wasn’t just Manus there was Nauru. There were temporary protection visas, there was also in some instances turning around boats.

“So it was a much more comprehensive policy than that which the government is now inching towards, courtesy not of Julia Gillard’s failed East Timor solution … but I believe Kevin Rudd’s diplomacy with (PNG prime minister) Sir Michael Somare.”

Mr Rudd visited Mr Somare in hospital in Singapore two weeks ago where the 75-year-old is recovering from surgery.

Sir Michael tapped his deputy Sam Abal to act as prime minister in his place and it is unclear when he will return to office.

Mr Abal was foreign minister when Manus Island closed in 2004, following the release of its last detainee, Aladdin Sisalem.

Mr Abbott called on the government to call the president of Nauru to discuss reopening a processing centre there.

“My colleague Scott Morrison has been to Nauru, he’s looked at the detention centre there. It’s in good condition, it could be reopened within a matter of weeks,” he said.

“I think Nauru would send the strongest possible message to the people smugglers.”

On Thursday night it was revealed Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe and parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles went to PNG this week to meet government figures.

Mr Marles also visited Port Moresby and Bougainville in March, while Mr Rudd has said he is considering a visit to PNG in May.