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New poll: Labor in front

Just three months after the election, Labor is ahead in the latest Fairfax/Nielsen poll, with Bill Shorten's 21% personal approval rating dwarfing Tony Abbott's 1%.

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Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says the government will not alter its approach to stopping boats, including the way it releases information, in light of a poor poll showing for the Coalition on its asylum seeker policy.

Mr Morrison told ABC radio on Monday that Indonesia had not halted its efforts to stop people smuggling in the wake of spying allegations that have disrupted co-operation between the two nations.

Scott Morrison has defended the way the Coalition releases information on boat arrivals.

Scott Morrison has defended the way the Coalition releases information on boat arrivals. Photo: Andrew Meares

The Nielsen poll published in Fairfax newspapers on Monday showed that less than half of voters, 42 per cent, approve of the way the government is handling its asylum-seeker policy and 50 per cent disapprove. The poll also showed Labor leading the Coalition 52 per cent to 48 per cent.

Asked whether this might reflect public unease about the Coalition's practice of only providing information on boat arrivals at weekly briefings, Mr Morrison said the boat information policy had been pledged by the Coalition before the election.

"How you handle information is an important way about how you conduct an operation and the results we're getting we are pleased with," he said.

"We've had almost an 80 per cent fall in illegal arrivals by boat to Australia and that's the measure we use to judge our success."

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said people were reacting to a government that had proved different to the one the Coalition promised before the election.

''Before the election, the current government said they would buy the boats, now they're hiding the boats,'' Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne. ''Before the election, the current government said we had a debt crisis, so what do they want to do, they want to increase our debt to half a trillion dollars.'' 

At press briefings, Mr Morrison has a policy of refusing to answer questions about certain issues, such as attempts to turn back vessels.

Canberra press gallery veteran Laurie Oakes recently criticised what he described as Mr Morrison's "arrogant" attitude.

"He sees it as getting at the press but it's not," Oakes said. "It's getting at the voters, and eventually I think the voters will wake up."

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said on Friday she would move to recall the head of the Immigration Department and the commander of Operation Sovereign Borders after both failed to answer questions, including ones on co-operation between Australia and Indonesia, during last week's Senate estimates hearings.

“Withholding information from Senate estimates that will be given at a press conference later in the week is absurd,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

The Greens will seek Labor support for a Senate motion to recall the officials before the legal and constitutional affairs committee.

Mr Morrison said it was a "challenging time" in Australian-Indonesian relations, following revelations Australia tapped the mobile phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and other senior ministers.

"We're all very keen to work through the issue constructively, respectfully, courteously and pragmatically, and I think that's what's occurring and we all hope to be in a better position soon," he said.

"Indonesia has been, and will be in the future, I believe, a very important partner in what we do on account of people-smuggling operations.

"People smuggling remains a crime in Indonesia, so I have no doubt the Indonesian government will continue to do things to prevent crimes being committed in Indonesia."

Mr Morrison said he had not spoken to his Indonesian counterpart since the spying revelations, but dialogue between "operational-level people" was continuing.

Foreign minister Julie Bishop told a leadership event in Perth on Monday that she was convinced the letter from Prime Minister Tony Abbott to Mr Yudhoyono would smooth the troubled waters between the two countries.

The Indonesian President is still considering in detail Mr Abbott's response, sent at the weekend, and is expected to wait several days before responding.

Ms Bishop said she was still on speaking terms with her Indonesian counterparts, and saw a fruitful future between the two countries.

''I am (confident) - the relationship is far too important for both countries, and we will work very hard to build on the relationship that already exists,'' Ms Bishop said.

''We must overcome these challenges and keep building on it.''

On Monday Mr Morrison also confirmed that three asylum seeker children have been transferred from detention at Nauru to the Australian mainland on mental health grounds.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the trio was taken to Brisbane ‘‘in accordance with our standard health procedures’’.

The minister stressed the children had not been sent to Nauru as unaccompanied minors.

One went as part of a family group and later asked to be separated, Mr Morrison told ABC radio.

The other two were previously believed to be adults.

‘‘They were subsequently found not to be over the age of 18 ... and they were then found to be unaccompanied minors and they have now been returned to Australia,’’ he said.

The group, which includes a teenage girl who attempted self harm, had been transferred to Nauru in September.

with AAP