Nauru is ‘ready and willing’

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Mr Abbott sat down with Nauru’s president Marcus Stephen in Brisbane on Saturday and promises to reopen the centre if the Liberals win the election.

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Mr Abbott says it is crystal clear from the discussions that Nauru is ready willing and able to reopen its existing processing centre at short notice.

He says it’s also clear that under the Nauruan constitution there is no impediment to reopen that centre immediately.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop backed her leader, saying the coalition had made the decision to speak with Mr Stephen to ready itself for government.

“The president of Nauru made it plain today that he was available to speak to both sides of politics,” Ms Bishop said.

“We believe that there is a solution that we can achieve working with the Nauran government,” she said.

Ms Bishop said the idea of reopening the centre had support on the Pacific island.

Recommissioning the Nauru centre is central to the coalition’s pledge to “stop the boats”.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison plans to head to Nauru on Sunday for a first-hand look at the facilities.

Mr Abbott said no deals, or the potential costs, were discussed with Mr Stephen.

“This was not a negotiation … we were simply inquiring as to the true disposition of the Nauruan government,” he said.

“We were exploring what was possible.”

He reiterated that there was no practical hurdles to having the centre open “tomorrow” if need be, despite what Labor was claiming.

Mr Abbott accused the government of wasting opportunities to meet with Mr Stephen, both in Brisbane on Saturday and at the recent Pacific Islands Forum, which the foreign minister attended.