‘Every arrival will be on Shorten’s head’
SCOTT Morrison is facing accusations of spreading "inaccurate information" in the wake of his party's historic defeat yesterday.
Last night, the Prime Minister declared that every new boat arrival "will be on Bill Shorten's head", slamming the Opposition Leader as "weak" on national security.
It came after Labor and the crossbenchers combined yesterday 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.
The stunning defeat marked the first time a government has lost a substantive policy vote on the floor of the House of Representatives since 1941.
Labor frontbencher Tony Burke today said Mr Morrison was attempting to argue the new medical transfer system, yet to be approved by the Senate, would encourage more asylum seekers.
However, Mr Burke noted the changes accepted by the House only applied to the 1000 refugees currently on Manus and Nauru - a provision Labor insisted on inserting during negotiations with the Greens.
"He's saying there is a benefit (for future detainees) and there is not," Mr Burke told ABC radio this morning.
He accused the Prime Minister of spreading "inaccurate information" to support a claim people smugglers were being sent a signal to restart business.
"The only signal that would be going there would be if the government decided to trumpet one," Mr Burke said.
Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra the government would continue to fight to prevent yesterday's amendments from becoming law, and launched an immediate counter-attack on Labor's border protection credentials.
"Votes will come and they will go, they will not trouble me," he said last night.
"What happened in the parliament tonight was proof positive that Bill Shorten and the Labor Party do not have the mettle, do not have what is required and do not understand what is necessary."
The Prime Minister said there were "contingency plans" in place to prevent the weakening of Australia's border protection regime after the passage of the bill.
"I'll have more announcements about steps the government will be taking to address the risks that Labor have created," he said.
He rejected any suggestion the government had lost the parliament's confidence, and dared Labor to move a no-confidence motion.
"If the Labor Party want to move such a motion, then they are welcome to do so, and it will fail," Mr Morrison said.
"How do I know that? Because the independents have made that very clear.
"These are not matters that go to issues of confidence. I don't consider them in those terms. The government has never put them in those terms."
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has this morning echoed Mr Morrison's remarks, warning Australia would see a "return of the boats" under the Opposition.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Mr Dutton warned the nation would face growing numbers of asylum seekers on our shores after the medevac bill passed through parliament.
"It's very clear that an unscrambling and dismantling of Operation Sovereign Borders is going to see, I think, a return of boats. It's going to see people going back into detention," Mr Dutton said.
He slammed Labor leader Bill Shorten as "reckless" for supporting the bill, warning it would see "people come to our country who have serious allegations against them".
"What Bill Shorten supported in the parliament yesterday is a green light for people smugglers," Mr Dutton said.
"It's on Bill Shorten's shoulders, the first boat that arrives and the ones that arrive thereafter."
But the refugee transfer bill has specific measures in place to address security concerns.
Under the legislation, the Home Affairs minister can reject the transfer on national security grounds, or if the person has a substantial criminal record and poses a threat to the Australian community.
If the minister refuses the transfer for any other reason, the decision is referred to the eight-member Independent Health Advice Panel.
The panel can then reassess the reasoning before choosing whether to make a second recommendation for transfer.
Mr Dutton also praised key crossbench senator Derryn Hinch, who is demanding a security briefing before deciding if he will back fast-tracked medical transfers for asylum seekers in offshore detention.
"It seems to me that Derryn Hinch is showing the leadership Bill Shorten lacks," Mr Dutton said. "(Hinch) wants to be informed by the experts."
The draft laws are yet to clear the Senate, where they are expected to return today.
HOW THE LEGISLATION WORKS
• A medical panel of two doctors would assess requests for medical transfers of people on Manus Island and Nauru, but not new arrivals
• The Home Affairs minister would have 72 hours to make a decision on whether to agree to a medical transfer
• The minister can reject the transfer on national security grounds or if the person has a substantial criminal record and poses a threat to the Australian community
• If the minister refuses the transfer for another reason, the decision is referred to the eight-member Independent Health Advice Panel
• The panel can then reassess the reasoning before choosing whether to make a second recommendation for transfer
• The health advice panel includes the Home Affairs Department's chief medical officer and the Commonwealth chief medical officer
• It also has at least one person nominated by each of the Australian Medical Association, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Royal Australasian College of Physicians and one with expertise in paediatric health
• The panel won't be paid, a move designed to remove doubts over whether the bill was unconstitutional.
- with AAP