Medicine

Australia reopens offshore detention centre

Australia reopens offshore detention centre

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.

It lost a vote on the Medivac Bill 75 to 74.

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

"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".

Today's historic vote on the urgent medical treatment bill delivered a decisive message to the government: Australians want an end to the abhorrent treatment of people in offshore detention that has been carried out in their name.

Mr Porter said a refugee on Manus Island was facing sex abuse charges and someone on Nauru had been charged with indecently assaulting a child.

Senator Hinch backed the bill in the Senate late previous year.

The Morrison government has beefed up its border protection measures and will reopen the Christmas Island detention centre in anticipation of what it claims will be a resumption of the people smuggling trade.

"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".

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A fishing boat carrying Vietnamese asylum seekers neared the shore of Australia's Christmas Island, taken in 1993.

When the sitting government last lost a vote on substantive legislation in 1929, then prime minister Stanley Bruce immediately called an election, and lost it.

Mr Shorten dismissed that claim and argued the bill simply allowed for better medical care for asylum seekers who needed help in Australia.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten believes he has responded to community concern about sick refugees in detention, and is desperately hoping the ALP's buffer in the polls will be enough to protect it from any backlash on border protection.

Meanwhile, Labor is aiming to ramp up penalties against bankers and financial institutions who break the law.

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

The amendments to the bill were introduced in Parliament back in December.

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

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


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