Wednesday, 13 November, 2019

Scott Morrison reopens Christmas Island asylum seeker detention centre

Doctors visited Parliament House to urge politicians to back a bill to make it easier for critically ill asylum seekers to be transferred to Australia Australian government suffers historic defeat over refugee medical bill
Deanna Wagner | 13 February, 2019, 11:39

The Australian government has lost control of the parliament for the first time in nearly a century, losing a major vote on a bill to help evacuate critically ill refugees from offshore processing centers.

In the wake of the parliamentary setback, Morrison refused calls to step down or call an early election, insisting that Australians would have time to make their choice in May.

Christmas Island's small regional hospital can not cope with an influx of medical transfers from Manus Island and Nauru, the local council warns.

'Under Labor's law, a person who has been convicted of serious offences would have to come to Australia and there is nothing the minister could do to stop it, ' he said.

On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would reopen the Christmas Island detention centre - which closed a year ago - to cope with what he predicted would be an influx of transfers from Manus Island and Nauru.

"Have no doubt this man sitting opposite me is not fit to be the prime minister of this country", Mr Dutton said of the Opposition Leader.

"My job now is to ensure that the boats don't come".

The legislation has been passed into law by the Senate 36 votes to 34 this afternoon.

But Attorney-General Christian Porter went further than both his Coalition colleagues, saying the Federal Government would not be able to bar two alleged sex offenders from entering Australia under the new laws.

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Under changes to the legislation, two doctors can recommend medical evacuations for sick asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.

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

The government has ferociously argued the bill would undermine Operation Sovereign Borders and cause people smugglers to restart their trade.

Mr Morrison denied his trumped-up rhetoric played into the hands of people smugglers.

"But when you're in a village in Indonesia and someone is selling you a product, there's no protection or truth in advertising for people smugglers".

Meanwhile MP Kerryn Phelps, a key supporter of the bill, dismissed concerns that there will be an influx of new boat arrivals.

Kon Karapanagiotidis from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said the Government was trying to "whip up hysteria and fear-mongering", ignoring the fact the new laws applied only to the existing cohort of refugees.

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

However, the immigration minister would still have some authority to overrule transfers.