Embattled Australian PM suffers historic defeat over refugees

Sergio Conner
February 13, 2019

The push to speed up medical evacuations was first made by independent MP Kerryn Phelps past year after she won the Liberal Party stronghold of Wentworth when former PM Malcolm Turnbull was ousted in a party coup.

The fast-tracked medical transfers law will only apply to refugees and asylum seekers already on Manus Island and Nauru.

It lost a vote on the Medivac Bill 75 to 74. The Labor proposal made it easier for refugees to get approved for medical transfer by making it more challenging for the Home Affairs Minister to reject their applications.

The Prime Minister during question time this afternoon dug the boot into Labor over national security concerns emerging from the bill.

When he announced his decision, Mr Hinch said it was the hardest vote he had cast in the Upper House. "Every arrival is on Bill Shorten [Leader of the Labor Party] and Labor's head".

"I'm not sure if it's going to have any great effect (on votes) but I do think it's a precursor to what the government's going to try and do in the election campaign".

A dozen refugees have already died in the Manus and Nauru camps and a number have attempted suicide, including children.

He said the new laws only allowed the minister to refuse entry to Australia if someone had been sentenced, not if they were only facing charges.

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However, Mr Morrison argued people smugglers did not deal with the nuance of the "Canberra bubble" but rather the psychology of messaging about "stronger" and "weaker" borders.

Australian PM Scott Morrison says he will re-open a controversial detention centre on Christmas Island, after a historic defeat in parliament.

"My job now is to do everything in my power, in the power of the government, to ensure what the Parliament has done to weaken our borders does not result in boats coming to Australia".

Earlier this morning, Mr Morrison called a meeting of the National Security Committee after which he declared the Christmas Island detention facility will be reopened. "Every arrival", he said.

Yes, the government is wielding its reluctance to provide Australian medical care, and its use of harsh facilities like Christmas Island, as an apparent weapon against asylum seekers. "If they do come, you can thank the Labour Party and (opposition leader) Bill Shorten".

"It's only the cohort who are now on Manus Island and Nauru who will benefit from legislation".

He denied his ramped-up rhetoric played into the hands of people smugglers, saying "I'm standing between people smugglers and bringing a boat to Australia".

The government says the Christmas Island re-start will cost about $1.4 billion over four years.

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