Refugee 'medivac bill' passes Australia's lower house

13 February, 2019, 15:24 | Author: Denise Dawson
  • Anthony Albanese during Question Time in the House of Representatives

The changes were part of the Urgent Medical Treatment Bill, the passage of which marked the first time in 90 years an Australian government had lost a substantive vote in the house.

The 75-74 vote - which came on the first sitting day of parliament this year - is a blow to the already embattled prime minister and raised questions about whether he can remain in office.

"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 and Labor's head".

The prime minister has warned changes to fast-track medical evacuations for asylum seekers held offshore, which passed the lower house against the government's wishes, could restart the people-smuggling trade.

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

The leader of the Opposition in the Senate Senator Penny Wong, left, speaks to Senator Derryn Hinch after the passing of the Medivac bill.

"My job now is to do everything in my power and the power of the government to ensure what the Parliament has done to weaken our border does not result in boats coming to Australia".

Kon Karapanagiotidis from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said the Government was trying to "whip up hysteria and fear-mongering", ignoring the fact the new laws applied only to the existing cohort of refugees.

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The detention centre on Christmas Island will reopen, the federal government announced.

"I believe that we can keep our borders secure, we can uphold national security but still treat people humanely", Shorten told Parliament.

Australia's conservative minority government suffered a damaging political defeat on Tuesday (Feb 12), becoming the first administration in almost a century to lose a vote on major legislation and sparking calls for a snap election.

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

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 prime minister pledged to reverse the laws if the coalition was re-elected at the poll expected in mid-May.

Sick asylum seekers often have to fight the Australian government in court for permission to be transferred to an Australian hospital.

This change is meant to protect refugees who need medical help but might have been convicted of minor offences or perhaps crimes of freedom of expression in their home countries.

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