Australian government suffers historic defeat over refugee medical bill


No matter the detail of the medical evacuation Bill passed by Parliament tonight, the Labor Party can never win a political fight on border security.

The fast-tracked medical transfers will only apply to the existing cohort of refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.

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

The Prime Minister during question time this afternoon dug the boot into Labor over national security concerns emerging from the bill. "As they let bikies and criminals and rapists and others stay in the country because they simply don't have the mettle to make the decisions to protect Australia and to keep Australians safe", Mr Morrison said.

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.

"If we're re-elected it won't apply to anybody because I will reverse it".

"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.

A dozen refugees have already died in the Manus and Nauru camps and a number have attempted suicide, including children.

"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 in a press conference following his government's defeat in the parliament. "Every arrival", he said.

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The Christmas Island center, on par with detention facilities on Nauru and Manus Island, has become a symbol of Australia's controversial migration policy, associated with torture, mistreatment, and abuse.

As a result, a "range of strengthenings" will boost Operation Sovereign Borders, but certain details of the stronger capacity won't be publicly revealed.

Earlier, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten sought to send his own message to would- be asylum seekers.

The prime minister denied his ramped up rhetoric played into the hands of people smugglers.

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

Shonky bankers could soon be jailed for up to 15 years and corporate crooks fined up to $525 million.

The amendments to the bill were introduced in Parliament back in December. Despite his historic loss, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to do the same.

Labor is also pushing major reforms to the health system.

"Ensuring access to adequate medical care for refugees and asylum-seekers is a life-saving, humanitarian act", said Louise Aubin, the representative of the UN Human Commissioner for Refugees in Canberra.