Anthony Albanese, the Opposition leader, has been forced to clarify his position on offshore detention centres, insisting that a Labor government would not shut them down.
The Coalition seized on earlier comments made by Mr Albanese to try to revive the border protection debate and claim that Labor would be weak on people smugglers.
Australia's offshore detention regime has been described as abusive and costly by leading human rights groups, but Mr Albanese insists offshore detention centres would remain open under Labor.
When asked how his government would respond if people smugglers tried to take advantage of an incoming Labor government, Albanese said people who attempted to come to Australia by boat would be turned back.
He ended his remarks by saying that turning boats back means you don't need offshore detention. Defence Minister Peter Dutton pounced on the comments, arguing that they marked a weakening of Labor's border protection policy.
You would expect people smugglers to be jumping for joy in the air off their couches in Indonesia and Sri Lanka and Vietnam because that is a very dangerous statement he made this morning.
He already doesn't support the temporary protection visas, which underpin the whole Operation Sovereign Borders, and the regional processing is a key element of the policy as well.
It's a change of policy I don't know, maybe he's made a mistake in a press conference, but the wheels are falling off the Anthony Albanese bus at the moment. Both major parties support boat turn-backs and send asylum seekers who arrive by sea to offshore detention centres while their cases are processed.
Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles has accused the Coalition of launching a desperate scare campaign to create division that doesn't exist in the lead-up to the May election.
Labor supports Operation Sovereign Borders and every aspect of it. What is the difference between the two major parties?
Labor opposes the use of temporary protection visas because it argues that the visas keep refugees in a state of limbo, which is a area of a difference between the two parties.
The government has taken up an offer from New Zealand nine years after it was first put on the table to resettle refugees languishing on Nauru and others held in onshore detention facilities.
Why is this topic a sensitive topic for Labor?
Border protection and asylum seeker policy has been a controversial area in Australian politics for decades.
The Coalition and Labor have had nearly identical policies on border protection over the past decade and the ALP has tried to neutralise it as an issue.
The Coalition believes that the topic is politically advantageous to its re-election campaign, because of the statement from Mr Albanese.