Australia will reopen its Christmas Island detention centre

Grant Boone
February 13, 2019

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.

Prime minister Scott Morrison will speak at the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday - where he will argue only his government can protect Australians from local and global threats. Despite his historic loss, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to do the same.

Under a harsh policy meant to deter asylum seekers from reaching Australia by boat, Canberra sent arrivals to Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing and barred them from resettling in Australia.

"Last night was not about an election - last night was about the simple proposition that Australia is strong enough to treat people humanely", he told reporters at Parliament House.

"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".

Australia's conservative minority government suffered a monumental political defeat on Tuesday, becoming the first administration in almost a century to lose a vote on major legislation and fuelling calls for a snap election.

"We have approved putting in place the reopening of the Christmas Island detention facilities, both to deal with the prospect of arrivals as well as dealing with the prospect of transfers", Morrison said.

The amendment facilitating medical evacuations of sick refugees stranded in Nauru and Manus camp was narrowly passed on Tuesday with 75 votes in favor, to 74 against.

Legislation has only been passed in the House against a government's will in 1929, 1941, 1962 and 2013. His Liberal-National coalition's six years in power has been marked by instability, with two prime ministers toppled by internal insurrections. Another lawmaker has since quit the government as part of the bitter fallout over the leadership change.

He also said police, the military and Australian Border Force have been working on "contingency plans" in the event laws related to asylum seekers in offshore detention are changed.

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The leader of the Opposition in the Senate Senator Penny Wong, left, speaks to Senator Derryn Hinch after the passing of the Medivac bill.

The people smuggling boat traffic has all but stopped in the past five years with the government promising that any refugees who arrive on Australian shores by boat will never be allowed to settle there.

Medical evacuations have become a loophole in Australia's policy of exiling asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

'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.

Section 53 is "non-justiciable" and therefore a court will not decide if a law is valid, meaning the government can not challenge the medical transfer bill in the High Court.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn welcomed the law change.

"Many people are happy now because they will finally receive medical treatment".

"In a number of those cases, the delay in accessing medical treatment risked life-threatening consequences for the children and adults concerned", she added.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton took a swing, too.

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