Prime Minister Scott Morrison is staring down growing public and political pressure to evacuate asylum-seeker children from Nauru.
Mr Morrison says fewer than 50 children remain on the Pacific island, with 30 removed in recent months.
“We’ll continue to work progressively on that, but we’re not going to do it by showboating and grandstanding,” the prime minister told reporters on Monday.
The government has lost its majority in the House of Representatives and is under immense pressure from crossbench MPs to get asylum seekers off Nauru.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton insists all asylum-seeker children will eventually be removed.
“We’re down to 50 – our intention is to reduce it to zero – but to do it in a way that doesn’t restart boats,” he said.
Labor leader Bill Shorten wants to work with the government to send the asylum seekers to New Zealand.
“It’s time for the new prime minister to put aside the point-scoring and to work with us,” Mr Shorten said.
But Mr Dutton is not interested, painting the Labor opposition as a threat to border security.
“If Mr Shorten is elected prime minister, there is no doubt in my mind the boats will restart,” he said.
“If you want to see kids drown at sea, if you want to see kids back in detention, vote Labor.”
There are about 650 asylum seekers left on Nauru, including the 50 children.
Another 626 men remain on Manus Island.
Those on Nauru receive care from 65 medical professionals, including 33 mental health workers.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott said the tiny Pacific nation was no “hell hole”.
“If you like living in the tropics it’s a very, very pleasant island,” Mr Abbott said.