Australia government loses bill blocking sick asylum seekers


"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 told reporters in Canberra.

Despite his historic loss, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to do the same.

Changes to Australia's border policy have passed through parliament, as the government warns this will lead to more illegal boat arrivals. The policy banishes asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australia by boat to the Pacific island camps in a bid to deter other asylum seekers from making the perilous voyage.

In a surprise legal twist just hours before the vote, the government cited legal advice from the Solicitor-General to argue the bill would incur additional expenses by creating a panel of medical experts to rule on refugee transfers.

Denying that he would try to overrule the vote by blocking it from getting royal assent, Morrison vowed to reverse the "foolish" law should the Coalition be reelected when the polls open in May. Legislation has only been passed in the House against a government's will in 1929, 1941, 1962, and 2013.

The government lost its lower-house majority at a by-election in October. Another lawmaker has since quit the government as part of the bitter fallout over the leadership change.

Mr Morrison ramped up the alert on border security by convening the national security committee of cabinet, seeking briefings from Australian Border Force officials and warning that people smugglers in Indonesia would use the new law in Australia to encourage people onto boats.

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

Another political flashpoint is the fact the new laws will only apply to asylum seekers who are already offshore.

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.

"We want strong borders", he said.

The amendments to the bill were introduced in Parliament back in December. This has meant that people needing urgent medical assistance have severely deteriorated or even died as a result of delays and political stalling. Rape victims had endured traumatic late-term abortions.

Local council chief executive David Price said the hospital was so small it made more sense to send sick asylum seekers straight to the mainland.

"We are going through all the people and we are in a race against time to do that", he told Sky News on Thursday.