Published: Wed, February 13, 2019
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Australia's Lower House Passes Asylum Bill in Historic Defeat for Government

Australia's Lower House Passes Asylum Bill in Historic Defeat for Government

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.

The amended bill, which passed into law in the Senate shortly after Morrison's announcement, hands doctors on Nauru and Manus Island greater power to transfer asylum seekers to Australian medical facilities.

In the wake of the parliamentary setback, Morrison refused calls to step down or call an early election, insisting that Australians would have time to make their choice in May.

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

Speaking before the vote, Morrison said that the changes would encourage people-smugglers and provoke a new flow of arrivals.

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"My job now is to ensure that the boats don't come", he told reporters at Parliament House on Wednesday.

"If they don't come, it will be because of the work and the decisions we are now taking and the actions we are putting in place", Morrison said. 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.

The Prime Minister pledged to reverse the laws if the Coalition is re-elected at the poll expected in mid-May.

Senator Hinch backed the bill in the Senate late a year ago.

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 changes included a provision that only the 1,000 asylum seekers now held on Nauru and Papua New Guinea and not any future arrivals would be considered for medical evacuation under the new regime. The government had similarly made the offer only available to refugees on the islands at the time to avoid attracting new asylum seekers, Shorten said.

He said he was confident anyone who was transferred to Australia would remain in detention while receiving treatment.

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.

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

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton took a swing, too.

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"I know how much the people who are sick on Manus Island and Nauru are suffering and Parliament is saying enough is enough,"Dr Phelps said after the vote". "This puts Australia back on the map for people smugglers and Bill Shorten has that on his shoulders".

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