Asylum seeker laws passed in a historic defeat for the federal government on Tuesday have left Australia’s borders open to people smugglers, Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton has warned.
The federal minister appeared on ABC’s 7.30 to criticise the bill, which will allow asylum seekers held offshore to receive medical care in Australia, just hours after the government lost the policy vote on the floor of the Lower House for the first time in 78 years.
Labor Opposition joined the Greens and Independents to pass the bill by 75 votes to 74.
In an often fiery 10 minute exchange with program presenter Leigh Sales, Dutton described the unravelling of his government’s border protection policies as a disaster for Australia.
Asylum seeker laws passed in a historic defeat for the federal government on Tuesday have left Australia’s borders open to people smugglers, Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton (pictured) has warned
He also claimed Opposition Leader Bill Shorten had failed his test in leading the country on border protection.
While Mr Dutton says his government will abide by the legislation passed, he expressed concerns for the consequences of the deal struck between Labor, the Greens and independents.
‘This puts Australia back on the map for people smugglers and Bill Shorten has that on his shoulders,’ he said.
‘I think Mr Shorten doesn’t yet understand the full consequence of his decision tonight, but I think the Australian public do.’
Mr Shorten took to Twitter on Tuesday night to say the bill only applies to people who are already on Manus and Nauru.
‘This means the people smugglers don’t have a product to sell and can never again resume their trade in human misery,’ he tweeted.
‘The Australian people understand our nation can be strong on borders and still treat people humanely. We can preserve our national security and still look after people to whom we owe a duty of care. This legislation gets that balance right.’
‘This puts Australia back on the map for people smugglers and Bill Shorten has that on his shoulders,’ Dutton said
Mr Dutton went as far as accusing Mr Shorten of choosing to settle politics in his own ranks over Australia’s best interests.
‘I believe we will see boats. I think there is no question that people smugglers will be hearing very clearly that the policy in Australia has changed and I think we need to be very cognisant of that,’ Mr Dutton said.
He also claimed the new bill would allow people being held at Manus or Nauru, who have been charged with serious crimes such as murder and child sex offences, to come to Australia.
The Daily Telegraph revealed the details of four men charged with serious offences who the government believes could be transferred to Australia.
One man suspected of being charged with murder in Iran has a violent history on Manus Island, including the alleged assault of a psychiatrist.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have differing views over asylum seekers
Another man remains in custody in association with a rape of a minor on the island.
A third man on Manus Island allegedly had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl, while a fourth man charged with an indecent act involving a child under the age of 16 is yet to appear in court.
Mr Dutton refused to answer Sales’ questions on the number of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus charged with serious offences, adding he would only release those details if appropriate.
But Mr Shorten said the bill ensures the government has the power to deny criminals and national security risks entry to Australia.
Mr Dutton refused to answer Sales’ questions on the number of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus charged with serious offences, adding he would only release those details if appropriate
The amendments passed the lower house on Tuesday evening, and will go to the Senate for approval on Wednesday.
‘Today is such an important day for sick people needing medical care they are unable to receive on Manus Island and Nauru. Thank you to all of the many people who contributed to this remarkable community campaign. Senate tomorrow,’ independent Dr Kerryn Phelps tweeted.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the laws will be given royal assent in the normal way, but he had some parting words for the opposition leader after his government lost a vote on legislation.
‘The Australian people have looked at Bill Shorten today and they have found him weak, and he is,’ Mr Morrison told reporters.
Mr Morrison is already promising ‘contingency’ measures to ensure the new laws don’t undermine Operation Sovereign Borders.
Presenter Leigh Sales (pictured) clashed with Home Minister Peter Dutton several times in a heated exchange when he appeared on ABC’s 7.30 on Saturday night
‘The Labor Party have failed to learn their lessons of failure when they had responsibility for border protection in this country,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘The Australian people have looked at Bill Shorten today and they have found him weak, and he is.’
But Mr Shorten said borders can remain strong while the nation also looks after people in Australia’s care.
‘I believe we can keep our borders secure, we can uphold national security, but still treat people humanely,’ Mr Shorten told parliament.
The amendments passed the lower house on Tuesday evening, and will go to the Senate for approval on Wednesday (pictured are asylum seekers on Manus)
HOW THE NEW BILL WORKS
- A medical panel of two doctors would assess requests for medical transfers of people currently on Manus Island and Nauru, but not new arrivals.
- 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 pediatric health.
- The panel won’t be paid, a move designed to remove doubts over whether the bill was unconstitutional.