Australia to reopen island detention camp after refugee bill

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

The ALP and key crossbench and independent MPs and Senators came together to vote the bill through, delivering a historic blow for the government on the eve of an election.

"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".

Morrison said he would repeal the "foolish law" if his government were re-elected. According to the Australian House of Representatives, it last happened in 1941 and before that, 1929.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten on Tuesday re-drafted the amendments passed by the Senate in December in an attempt to make the law less likely to attract a new wave of asylum seekers, who used to arrive in Australia at a rate of more than a boat a day.

Immigration Minister David Coleman said on Sunday the change would bring a return of the days when thousands of asylum-seekers traveled to Indonesia and then paid smugglers to take them on to Australia by boat. "We can preserve our national security and still look after people to whom we owe a duty of care". The rules around medical evacuations only apply to existing refugees in offshore detention, not new arrivals, and the government still has the discretion to overturn the recommendation of doctors.

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Raif-Henok went on to thank Alicia Keys for the kind words that she said about Diana Ross . The music legend opened her performance with her hit "The Best Years of My Life".

Labor also pushed back the decision time from 24 hours to 72 hours in response to ASIO's concerns it would not be able to conduct a security assessment within that shortened period.

"This legislation is confined to the current cohort of people on Manus Island and Nauru", said Kerryn Phelps, an independent lawmaker.

The Greens are concerned about Senate delays and about the way the amendments give the Immigration Minister more discretion, which could force applications for medical transfers to go through the courts as they are today.

It is the first time in decades that an Australian government has lost a vote on a substantive piece of legislation, sparking applause and cheers from observers in the parliamentary viewing gallery in Canberra. The policy banishes asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australia by boat to the Pacific island camps in a bid to deter other asylum seekers from making the perilous voyage. The human rights body has urged the government to evacuate the remaining people still held on Manus Island and Nauru.

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.

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