The prime minister has put Labor in an invidious position. Before the Wentworth by-election he dangled the prospect of a deal to allow refugees from Manus and Nauru settle in New Zealand. Afterwards he rejected compromise amendments that could have made this happen and reverted to an all or nothing demand: Labor must support the existing bill banning all offshore refugees from ever coming to Australia, no matter which country they might end up in.

This is bad legislation, but Labor should swallow hard and pass it anyway. Why? Because this is an emergency. Only after the political deadlock in Canberra is broken can resettlement in New Zealand begin, and the process itself will not happen overnight. New Zealand will need to do its own security and health checks on prospective candidates, and it will need to set up the reception services, counselling, accommodation and others supports needed to help refugees settle and rebuild their lives.

If work started tomorrow, perhaps some refugee families could get to New Zealand before Christmas. Too much time has already been wasted and too many lives lost or damaged. There must be no more delays.

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