Labor plans changes to refugee laws

Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Camera Icon Prime Minister Scott

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

The government has advice from security and intelligence chiefs that the amendments, which it opposed, could send a signal to people smugglers that Australia's border security policies are being relaxed.

Following that, the Prime Minister on Wednesday said that the government would re-open the Christmas Island centre "to deal with the prospect of arrivals. and transfers" - arguing both were now more likely, the BBC reported.

Labor and the crossbenchers combined on Tuesday to win a series of 75-74 votes over the coalition government on a bill to give easier medical transfers to asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.

It is expected to sail through the upper Senate later this week where it will become law.

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As part of the response, the government will quickly reopen the Christmas Island facility which was mothballed in October 2018.

Kerryn Phelps, the independent MP who championed the bill and who previously served as President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), described the vote as "such an important day for sick people needing medical care they are unable to receive". "Rape survivors have to had to have traumatic late term abortions due to government blocks", she said.

Morrison said he would reopen the detention centre, which was closed a year ago, to cope with what he predicted would be an influx of transfers from Manus Island and Nauru.

Labor representatives said it was about "doing the right thing", and the vote provoked cheers from asylum-seeker activists in parliament's public gallery.

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. A wooden boat carrying 90 asylum seekers from Iran and Iraq ran onto rocks on Christmas Island in 2010, killing 48.

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

"With the last few children leaving Nauru and the provision of adequate medical care now in sight, we are hopefully witnessing an end to the race to the bottom on refugee policy", said Mr Glendenning.

"The Australian people understand our nation can be strong on borders and still treat people humanely", Shorten said in a tweet on Tuesday.

"The Australian people have looked at Bill Shorten today and they have found him weak, and he is".

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