Australia announces reopening of offshore detention center

Prime Minister Scott Morrison leaves the House of Representatives after losing a vote

The Morrison government has beefed up its border protection measures and will reopen the Christmas Island detention centre in anticipation of what it claims will be a resumption of the people smuggling trade.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's bid to reopen the Christmas Island detention centre was purely a political move to "whip up fear and hysteria" that could have "tragic consequences", Bill Shorten says.

The prime minister pledged to reverse the laws if the coalition was re-elected at the poll expected in mid-May.

If the minister rejects the medical reasons, the decision may be reviewed by a medical panel, which can recommend it goes ahead.

News of the reopening came after the government suffered a historic defeat in parliament that appears to undermine the ruling party's strict border policies.

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

Operation Sovereign Borders and other parts of the government's border security operations will be beefed up, with more than $1.4 billion earmarked to be spent over four years.

Australia's conservative minority government suffered a monumental political defeat on Tuesday, becoming the first administration in almost a century to lose a vote on major legislation and fuelling calls for a snap election.

Labor secured the support of most of the crossbench to win the Lower House vote 75 to 74 on the first sitting day for 2019.

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"If they do come, you can thank the Labor Party and Bill Shorten because he is the one who has led this process".

The Prime Minister during question time this afternoon dug the boot into Labor over national security concerns emerging from the bill. After he left office, the centre-left Labor government began holding refugees on Christmas Island.

The legislative changes, which passed against the wishes of the Morrison government, allow immigration ministers to refuse medical transfers to convicted criminals.

"What we have done is got the balance right. The fact of the matter is this bill is about providing treatment to sick people", Shorten told Parliament."We can have strong borders while still fulfilling our duty of care to the people in our care". "Well if this wasn't the biggest advertisement to people smugglers, I don't know what is", he said.

See more from Al Jazeera here and the Guardian here.

The decision was made before the Senate passed legislation 36 votes to 34 that would allow doctors instead of bureaucrats to decide which asylum seekers on camps on the Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru can fly to Australia for hospital treatment.

Yes, the government is wielding its reluctance to provide Australian medical care, and its use of harsh facilities like Christmas Island, as an apparent weapon against asylum seekers.

"I'm standing between people smugglers and bringing a boat to Australia", he said.

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