Published: Fri, February 15, 2019
Worldwide | By Stella Potter

Australia has moved on from Tampa, Bill Shorten says

Australia has moved on from Tampa, Bill Shorten says

The Christmas Island detention centre was mothballed late previous year as part of a pre-election promise to shutter a series of immigration facilities.

While the medivac bill comes as a win for doctors, detainees and social advocacy groups it comes as a blow to Prime Minister Scott Morrison who staunchly opposed the bill over fears it would re-energise people smuggling to the country.

Mr Dutton said any new arrivals would go to Nauru, but added it was also possible medical transferees could end up on Christmas Island, where the detention centre will be reopened after closing in October past year.

Immigration Minister David Coleman said on February 10 the change could 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.

Also in the Swiss city on Wednesday night, Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a Sudanese refugee activist who has spent five years on Manus Island, won the Martin Ennals Award 2019, one of the most prestigious global human rights prizes, organisers said.

Scott Morrison remains defiant after the medical refugee transfers bill was passed today, warning the new laws will weaken Australia's borders.

"I think this country in 2019 is not the same nation as 2001", he told reporters in Canberra.

Speaking in front of Parliament House this morning, Morrison reiterated his position the vote will encourage people smugglers to continue their operations in Australian waters - and that reopening the shuttered centre was part of a contingency plan to dissuade those potential arrivals.

The ruling coalition lost its single-seat majority when former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull quit politics after he was deposed by his party colleagues in August. The people smugglers know my resolve, they know Peter Dutton's resolve, they know we will do everything in our power to stop them.

Under the previous system, the Minister for Home Affairs, now Peter Dutton, had final say over all proposed medical transfers.

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.

As a precaution, the government announced it has reopened a detention center on Christmas Island, a territory some 1,550 km (960 miles) north-west of the mainland.

But criticism of the camps has grown amid reports of abuse, suicides and lengthy detention periods, even as the government says the policy is discouraging asylum seekers from embarking on risky sea voyages.

Labor legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus said Mr Morrison had chosen to "endorse lies".

Major changes to Australia's health system would be led by a new, independent expert commission under a federal Labor government, making reforms harder to unpick.

A wooden boat carrying 90 asylum seekers from Iran and Iraq ran onto rocks on Christmas Island in 2010, killing 48.

The estimate of 300 cases is in line with the estimate from Australian doctor Nick Martin, who was based on Nauru in 2016 and 2017 and told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald last week that about 30 per cent of the 1,000 people on the islands would seek a transfer.

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