Australia to Reopen Christmas Island Detention Center After Defeat on Refugee Policy

Prime Minister Scott Morrison leaves the House of Representatives after losing a vote

DOMINIC LORRIMER FAIRFAX MEDIAPrime Minister Scott Morrison leaves the House of Representatives after losing a vote

Scott Morrison remains defiant after the medical refugee transfers bill was passed today, warning the new laws will weaken Australia's borders.

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

The Labor leader said the Coalition should be "ashamed of themselves for luring people to Australia by somehow implying that this Government hasn't got strong borders".

The U.N. refugee agency, in a separate statement praising Muhamat's advocacy work, said that UNHCR "continues to urge that solutions be found for all refugees and asylum-seekers under Australia's "offshore processing" in Papua New Guinea and Nauru as a matter of urgency".

Despite the people smuggling trade being shut down through Operation Sovereign Borders, the Morrison government has seized on the issue, believing Labor has made a major error in reopening the debate on borders, a key Coalition policy strength.

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Section 53 of the constitution states the Senate "may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people" - a provision that gives the government grounds to challenge the crossbench bill. The people smugglers know my resolve, they know Peter Dutton's resolve, they know we will do everything in our power to stop them.

Australian governments rarely lose votes in the House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form an administration.

Medical evacuations have become a loophole in Australia's policy of exiling asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

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

The detention center was closed past year.

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Mr Shorten proposed a deadline of three days for each decision to transfer a refugee to Australia for medical treatment, scaling back Labor's initial deadline of one week.

The estimate of 300 cases is in line with the estimate from Australian doctor Nick Martin, who was based on Nauru in 2016 and 2017 and told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald last week that about 30 per cent of the 1,000 people on the islands would seek a transfer.

"Most of the people on Manus Island and Nauru are recognised refugees who have proven their lives would be in danger if they were returned to their countries of origin". A wooden boat carrying 90 asylum seekers from Iran and Iraq ran onto rocks on Christmas Island in 2010, killing 48.

A war of words is heating up between the two leaders over border protection after Labor passed a medical evacuations bill for refugees yesterday.

Under the previous system, the Minister for Home Affairs, now Peter Dutton, had final say over all proposed medical transfers.

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He said the new laws only allowed the minister to refuse entry to Australia if someone had been sentenced, not if they were only facing charges.

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