Australian troops and officials could start work on reopening asylum seeker processing on Nauru by the end of the week, with the opposition poised to broadly support the government's plan.
After meeting Defence chief David Hurley this morning, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said reconnaissance work could begin by Friday.
This comes as Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the opposition had agreed to back the government's asylum seeker legislation - which would see offshore processing on Manus Island as well as Nauru - with some minor amendments.
Mr Bowen told Parliament this afternoon he had met his opposition counterpart, Scott Morrison, to discuss the amendments.
The minister said accountability measures would be built in, which would see both houses have to agree on a legislative instrument (that approves an offshore processing location) or five days pass without either vetoing the instrument.
Mr Bowen also said that after talks with Mr Morrison, only one country would be approved at a time and that there would be no ''job lots''.
He said instruments would be prospective as well as retrospective and that they would not be time limited. This is so people smugglers cannot build asylum seekers' expectations that a designation is about to come to an end.
Ms Gillard said the government's urgency to reopen Nauru and consequently Manus Island was a bid to stay one step ahead of people smugglers who were looking to crowd people on boats while Parliament debated the necessary the legislation.
''I am concerned people smugglers might try to exploit this window,'' she said. ''The sooner this is legislated the better.''
The Prime Minister said she was confident Nauru could be up and running within a month, albeit with temporary accommodations including tents.
Despite the government's desire for hasty action, the opposition tried to have a matter of public importance debate this afternoon on Labor border protection ''failure'' over the past four years.
With the support of independents Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott, Andrew Wilkie and Craig Thomson, the government was able to crush the Coalition MPI and bring on debate on the bill.
The Coalition's agreement over Nauru and Manus Island did not stop it trying to score political points on the asylum seeker issue.
During question time, Mr Morrison asked Ms Gillard why it had taken her so long to pick up the phone to the President of Nauru to request a resumption of offshore processing.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott asked the Prime Minister if she would accept responsibility for deaths that had occurred under Labor's border protection regime.
The Coalition is also still calling on the government to reintroduce temporary protection visas and to turn back boats.
The Greens will move an amendment during the debate today, to put a one-year limit on people's time in detention offshore.
"There must be a limit to the cruelty that the Australian government can inflict on refugees, so a time limit would be one simple way of minimising the damage that offshore processing has on refugees and vulnerable children,'' the party said in a statement.
A final vote is not expected until tomorrow, with both Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott due to meet returning Olympians in Sydney beforehand. There are 46 Coalition MPs listed to speak on the bill and four Labor MPs (Michael Danby, Chris Hayes, Dick Adams and Rob Mitchell).
With Jessica Wright