Australian government suffers historic defeat over refugee medical bill

Lester Mason
February 12, 2019

"He (Bill Shorten) can not be trusted on our borders and Australia can not trust Bill Shorten on border protection", he said.

Labor argued the bill was about "Australia's character" - how it treated sick people.

"And he will not make Australia stronger".

'Bill Shorten and the Labor Party have demonstrated tonight they do not have the mettle to protect our borders.

Proposed changes to Australia's border protection laws have been declared "unconstitutional". Labor changed its proposed laws to explicitly say a panel of doctors judging medical transfers would not be paid.

"The Labor party and Liberal-National party are not on the same page when it comes to border protection".

Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke has also told the coalition that 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 believe we can keep our borders secure, we can uphold national security, but still treat people humanely'.

However, he ruled out going to an election - telling reporters the federal election would be "in May, after the Budget".

The fiery attack on Mr Shorten, following an earlier exchange on the chamber floor.

And angry Mr Morrison told Mr Shorten Labor was trying to "kid themselves" that the changes were being made in the name of humanitarianism.

The government is also looking to stop Labor's effort to extend this sitting of parliament to deal with recommendations released last week from a landmark inquiry into misconduct in the banking industry. "This is now on your head, Leader of the Opposition".

Under the negotiated amendments, a medical panel of two doctors would assess requests for medical transfers from Manus Island and Nauru.

Scott Morrison started the week with a speech on security, but on Tuesday he started the parliamentary year with a psalm.

Morrison lost his parliamentary majority previous year and has been relying on cross-benchers to keep control of the lower House of Representatives.

These widen the grounds on which a minister could refuse a transfer to cover those with a substantial criminal record, allow the minister up to 72 hours (instead of 24) for making a decision on transfers, and confine the application of the legislation to the present cohort of refugees and asylum seekers.

The Solicitor-General, Stephen Donaghue, said in an opinion that the bill breached Section 53 because the medical panel it would set up would be paid.

As the major parties faced off in a brutal power play in the House, the constitutional law expert Anne Twomey said the Coalition's tactics to avoid losing the vote risked elevating the issue to one of confidence.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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