Anthony Albanese says the former Labor government's position on asylum seekers was simply unsustainable.
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese says Labor got it wrong on asylum seekers and its position was unsustainable when it was last in government.
Mr Albanese said he underestimated the pull factor from Labor's relaxation of the previous Howard government's tough stance on asylum seekers.
That resulted in an influx of asylum-seeker boats with some 50,000 arrivals and 1000 people drowned at sea.
"I got it wrong. We had a position that was simply unsustainable and we could not sustain the fact that more than 1000 people were coming, risking their lives by boat to try to get to Australia towards the end of our term in office," he told the ABC's Q&A program.
Mr Albanese said Labor didn't want the people-smuggling trade to start up again but also wanted to treat people humanely by doubling the humanitarian intake.
Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said the most compassionate approach was to have a generous and orderly refugee system which looked after everyone, not just those that could pay people smugglers.