Gillard undeterred by asylum plan's critics
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been busy talking down suggestions that her plan on asylum seekers is facing imminent demise.
Australian officials in Dili have begun formal discussions with East Timor about the country being home to the Government's vision for a regional refugee processing centre.
"Those critics who want to declare the approach dead in a week are mistaken," Ms Gillard said.
That list of critics now includes a key union player who helped deliver Ms Gillard the leadership, Australian Workers Union head Paul Howes.
When she took over as prime minister he said every single union leader was not just supportive, but excited.
But he is less pleased with her border protection policy, designed to be tougher than Kevin Rudd's approach.
Mr Howes told Sky News he accepts his view has not cut through to the community.
"I'm not happy with the Government's response to this," he said.
"I'm not happy with what the Coalition's doing on this. I accept that we've largely lost the debate, that we haven't been successful in convincing the Australian people."
The Government is undeterred by its critics on both sides.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith phoned his East Timorese counterpart yesterday and in recent days, he has spoken to Foreign Ministers in Indonesia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea to garner support.
Mr Smith says he hopes progress will be made but that it will not happen quickly.
"We're pursuing this with East Timor, and we're pursuing it seriously."
The Federal Government has also tried to clear up confusion over the policy.
On Thursday Prime Minister Julia Gillard backed away from naming East Timor as a possible location for the refugee processing centre, but on Friday she had confirmed she did specify it as a site.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says recent confusion over the plan shows it is unravelling.