Australia's lower house passes asylum bill in defeat for government

Australia's lower house passes asylum bill in defeat for government

Australia's lower house passes asylum bill in defeat for government

The Senate passed similar amendments on medical evacuations despite ruling party objections on the last day Parliament sat a year ago.

Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke has also told the coalition Labor will not pair MPs - a practice when opposition MPs sit out votes when a government member can't make it - in certain instances, to ensure numbers are even.

"I think there's no question that people smugglers will be hearing very clearly that the policy in Australia has changed and I think we need to be very cognisant of that".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced he will reopen the Christmas Island detention facility, ahead of the changes, to deal with a potential influx of illegal boat arrivals.

The Labor secured the support of most of the crossbench to win the Lower House vote 75 to 74 on the first sitting day for 2019.

The bill would become law without another vote if it is approved by the House on Tuesday.

"It does not provide any kind of attraction to people to leave where they are and to try to make the journey to Australia because they will not be considered as part of this legislation". Rape victims had endured traumatic late-term abortions.

The proposal called for a specially appointed panel to review medical transfer requests on Manus Island and Nauru, making it harder for the Home Affairs Minister to reject them.

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"Yesterday was a victory for the conscience of this nation", Asylum Seeker Resource Center chief executive Kon Karapanagiotidis said of the House vote.

He had been given confidential advice from the solicitor-general that the bill was unconstitutional, and also said he had been asked to keep it secret.

The sprawling Christmas Island camp was closed in October and is one of 19 immigration detention centres that the government closed due to an absence of boat arrivals.

However, refugee advocates have attacked the current system for being too opaque, with decisions on transfers taking too long, in some cases months, despite people requiring urgent medical attention.

The centre was completed in 2008 with a capacity of fewer than 2,000 inmates, but by 2013 held nearly 3,000 asylum seekers due to a surge in boats.

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

Christmas Island's local council warned its small regional hospital is not set up to handle asylum seekers with complex medical needs, if people are transferred to it.

"The priority for me having met with the general of Operation Sovereign Borders is to deal with the hard circumstance that Bill Shorten created", Dutton told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television.

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