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

13 February, 2019, 15:26 | Author: Veronica Peterson
  • Scott Morrison is promising more climate change and energy policy before the election in May

It is the first time in over seven decades that the incumbent government lost the vote on its own legislation.

Independent lawmakers and the opposition Labor party voted together to pass the bill by 75 votes to 74, dealing a blow to the ruling conservative coalition, which is trailing heavily in polls ahead of an election due in May.

Senior Labor MPs are continuing to defend changes to the policy, which gives doctors a greater say over whether sick asylum seekers should be transferred to Australia.

Morrison last week ruled out calling a snap election if his government was defeated over the "stupid" bill.

"Every arrival is on Bill Shorten and Labor's head".

A dozen refugees have already died in the Manus and Nauru camps and a number have attempted suicide, including children.

Scott Morrison is ramping up border security patrols and reopening Christmas Island after Federal Parliament passed new laws fast-tracking medical evacuations for asylum seekers.

"If they don't come, it will be because of the work and the decisions we are now taking and the actions we are putting in place", Morrison said.

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

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"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. the Labor Party demonstrated tonight they have no such mettle".

Under a harsh policy meant to deter asylum seekers from reaching Australia by boat, Canberra sent arrivals to Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing and barred them from resettling in Australia.

Labor made a strategic move to avoid turning the bill into a test of confidence in the government, withdrawing part of the medical transfer scheme that required funding to pay for medical experts to review transfers.

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.

He also pledged to reverse the legislation if he won the next election and had a majority.

But criticism of the camps has grown amid reports of abuse, suicides and lengthy detention periods, even as the government says the policy is discouraging asylum seekers from embarking on risky sea voyages.

"Under my government Australia will be stronger".

"I'm standing between people smugglers and bringing a boat to Australia", he said.

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