Scott Morrison's Response To The Medivac Bill Is Reopening Christmas Island

NSW Doctor Sara Townend with other young doctors at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra

NSW Doctor Sara Townend with other young doctors at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra

Labor, the Greens and four independents backed the bill in the Senate after the same legislation was passed in the House of Representatives yesterday.

"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.

History has shown this to be the case, most starkly with the so-called "Tampa election" in 2001 when a deeply unpopular John Howard staged a dramatic recovery in the polls by campaigning on border security.

The move cut short a furious debate over whether the vote in the lower house could be seen as a vote on a money bill and was therefore a vote of no confidence in the government itself.

The bill must be approved by the upper house to become law, but is likely to pass, as the Senate supported an earlier version a year ago.

The Prime Minister was repeatedly asked to say the fast-tracked transfers would not apply to new boat arrivals. He has ruled out calling a snap election on the refugee issue.

"It's humiliating for the government", said Rod Tiffen, a political analyst at the University of Sydney.

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.

"Once a government loses control of government finances, it is obliged to resign or seek a dissolution", Professor Twomey told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. "So there are risks involved".

The opposition Labour party responded furiously to what it called Morrison's "scare tactics" and said he was manufacturing a fear of migrants to win votes.

Mr Morrison declared national security measures would be strengthened under the government's Operation Sovereign Borders after the medivac bill was passed.

"Where we will always stand, and the Australian people can always trust us to do, is to have the mettle to ensure the integrity of our border protection framework".

Hundreds of asylum seekers who have been allowed into Australia for hospital treatment have received court injunctions that prevent their return to the islands.

Labor is also pushing major reforms to the health system.

The new push has come under fire from immigration minister David Coleman.

Then it's up to the minister to reject it on medical grounds again, or national security grounds, or if the person has a substantial criminal record and poses a threat to the Australian community.

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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