Labor's national conference has voted down a motion to ban the policy of turning back asylum seeker boats from the party's platform.
Federal Labor MP Andrew Giles moved the amendment to "reject turning away boats of people seeking asylum".
After about an hour of debate, the motion was voted down by delegates without a count.
Ahead of the vote, Opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles told conference delegates Labor could not return to policies of the past and must have access to a full suite of measures, which "does mean turn-backs".
He said the Labor leadership proposed a policy which would also allow for the removal of children from immigration detention "as soon as humanly possible".
"This is a hard decision but it is the right decision because we cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by avoiding the hard decisions today," he said.
Protestors on stage at the 2015 Australian Labor Party conference
Photo: Protestors briefly disrupted the ALP conference debate on asylum seeker policy. (ABC News: Sabra Lane)
Frontbencher Tony Burke, Labor's last immigration minister before leaving office in 2013, gave an emotional speech in support of boat turn-backs, reflecting on the 33 people who died on his watch.
"I want us to help more people than we've ever helped before but I want everyone to get here safely," he said.
"I have no doubt whatsoever if we give hope to the trade we will end up helping fewer people... and hundreds will start the journey but never complete it."
Protestors briefly interrupted the debate, taking to the stage holding a banner saying "no refugee tow-backs".
Once they left the stage, Mr Giles told delegates he was hopeful, but not confident, that his motion would succeed.
"I am unconvinced by their [boat turn-backs] effectiveness, I regard them as inherently unsafe, in my view they are clearly contrary to our international obligations," he said.