THE Greens are confident they will not haemorrhage votes, despite the party's instant dismissal of the Houston plan.
The recommendation to return off-shore processing to Papua New Guinea and Nauru was described by leader Christine Milne as a return to the ''bad old days'' of offshore processing under John Howard.
''The Greens will not be party to something which is cruel to people,'' Senator Milne said.
After June's parliamentary stalemate, Monash University senior lecturer in politics Paul Strangio predicted the issue would be the first big test of the Greens in the post-Brown era, because the debate was no longer about onshore versus offshore processing, but about stopping deaths.
The 2001 election, framed by the Tampa crisis, saw the Greens' vote surge and marked their arrival as a third force.
''There is now a real possibility that the Greens will be dealt out of the issue,'' said Dr Strangio. This means the party will have preserved its ''inviolate'' opposition to offshore processing, ''but on the other hand it will give critics the ammunition to say this is a party that is fundamentally incapable of dealing with the necessary compromises of politics. The report, what it fundamentally says about offshore processing is to preserve the most fundamental human right of all - life - and this makes the issue much more problematic for the Greens.''
But Dr Nick Economou, also a politics expert at Monash, said the Greens' position would continue to resonate with their voters. ''This is a core issue for the Greens. I see no reason why the Greens would demur from their previously stated position. To do so might threaten their vote. This would be the first step towards irrelevance.''
A Greens source said the report had ''made our approach much easier because Houston has recommended a return to the Howard policies''. ''Two months ago people were frustrated with politics and we were part of that, it has changed now.''
The Greens also highlight that refugee advocate groups slammed the recommendations.
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre's Pamela Curr said: ''People will still die at sea, because they will be going elsewhere - we just won't witness those deaths.''
A Galaxy poll in the seat of Melbourne in July found 78 per cent backed the Greens' position to oppose the government's proposal.
With Dan Flitton