Australian government suffers historic defeat over refugee medical bill

Australian government suffers historic defeat over refugee medical bill

It prompted the Labor opposition, the Greens and crossbench MPs to support a bill that gives doctors the power to recommend that refugees be transferred to Australia for treatment. The conditions at these camps have been heavily criticized by human rights groups, and Doctors Without Borders warned late previous year that about 30 percent of its patients on Nauru had attempted suicide.

The prime minister based his decision on the assessment of the country's security agencies, which had warned in December that like the one approved on Wednesday would result in an increase in asylum seekers heading to Australia.

The Christmas Island detention centre closed in late 2018.

"My job now is to ensure that the boats don't come", he told reporters at Parliament House on Wednesday.

Even still, Mr Shorten believes the "incompetent and divided" Morrison government should call an election as soon as possible.

The vote has paved the way for border protection to be a major issue in the general election, which Morrison on Tuesday said would be held in May despite the historic defeat.

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".

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.

Air NZ passengers on diverted flight to China touch down in Shanghai
Dismissing such conjectures as "irresponsible", Ardern accused the opposition of spreading "misinformation". Under the previous conservative government, New Zealand had fostered much closer ties with China.

The government had struck a deal in 2016 for the United States to accept up to 1,250 refugees languishing on Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Medical evacuations have become a loophole in Australia's policy of exiling asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

"Under my government Australia will be stronger".

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

"It should never have had to come to this point, but it is evident this bill was urgently needed to force action", lawyer Jennifer Kanis said in a statement.

"In a number of those cases, the delay in accessing medical treatment risked life-threatening consequences for the children and adults concerned", she added.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton took a swing, too. "Every arrival is on Bill Shorten [Leader of the Labor Party] and Labor's head".

Speaking before the vote, Morrison said that the changes would encourage people-smugglers and provoke a new flow of arrivals.

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