Friday, 15 February, 2019

Labor backdown on Medivac bill could be coming

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
Melissa Porter | 13 February, 2019, 14:52

Hundreds of asylum seekers who have been allowed into Australia for hospital treatment have received court injunctions that prevent their return to the islands.

Morrison lost his parliamentary majority a year ago and has been relying on cross-benchers to keep control of the lower House of Representatives.

Crossbench senator Derryn Hinch wavered before delivering his crucial support for the bill this morning.

The Senate passed similar amendments on medical evacuations despite ruling party objections on the last day Parliament sat previous year.

Under the new laws, the home affairs minister will have 72 hours to make a decision on whether to agree to a medical transfer.

"I'm going to be engaged in very clear and direct messaging to anyone who thinks they should get on a boat", Mr Morrison said. "Every arrival is on Bill Shorten [Leader of the Labor Party] and Labor's head".

Scott Morrison, who was State director for the party in NSW at that time, referenced the Tampa election after the Bill's passage last night.

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.

"It's a historic moment for all of the refugees on Manus and Nauru", Boochani added.

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.

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.

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

"My job now is to do everything within my power, and 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 Christmas Island detention centre was mothballed late a year ago as part of a pre-election promise to shutter a series of immigration facilities. "Every arrival", he said.

Refugee advocates applaud the law that they regard as a more humanitarian approach toward asylum seekers.

Labor leader Bill Shorten says his party is tough but fair on border control after it backed the bill.

The vote in favour of the Bill came amid growing concern about the well-being of asylum seekers sent to Nauru and Papua New Guinea, with reports of abuse, suicide and lengthy detention periods.

"There is no question that people smugglers will be hearing very clearly that the policy in Australia has changed", Dutton said.

What happened at Christmas Island previously?