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Australia: Reopening of detention camp a 'cruel and unnecessary political stunt'

Australia: Reopening of detention camp a 'cruel and unnecessary political stunt'”

Mr. Morrison's conservative government argues that the bill, passed 75 to 74 by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, will undermine Australia's tough refugee policy.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says he believes the majority of Australians support a more humane approach to sick asylum seekers, as the Coalition continues to warn of a possible surge in people smuggling.

Shorten said the government's tactics would not work this time.

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

The Christmas Island detention facilities-shuttered last year after 10 years in operation-has been a central scene in the outcome of previous national elections.

Morrison added: "My job now is to ensure that boats don't come, my job now is to do everything in my power to ensure that what the parliament has done to weaken our borders does not result in boats coming to Australia".

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In the form passed by the lower house, the bill says the Immigration Minister must make decisions on each transfer within 72 hours unless the refugees should be rejected on security grounds.

Refugees seeking a medical transfer will be processed at a controversial detention center to be reopened on Christmas Island, an Australian territory about 1,550 km (960 miles) northwest of the mainland.

This change is meant to protect refugees who need medical help but might have been convicted of minor offences or perhaps crimes of freedom of expression in their home countries.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten chose not to turn the government's defeat into a call for an early election, arguing the new law was a humanitarian change that made no significant adjustment to offshore processing of boat arrivals.

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. "We don't want the vile people smuggler trade in business, exploiting people's misery", Shorten said.

He said he was confident anyone who was transferred to Australia would remain in detention while receiving treatment.

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The reopening of Christmas Island takes place ahead of a general election due in May and in the midst of a fierce debate over the government's harsh immigration policies.

"Reopening Christmas Island is nothing short of a cruel and unnecessary political stunt".

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

He pointed out the medivac bill only applied to asylum seekers and refugees now stranded on Manus Island and Nauru. "Last time I did that, you didn't get here".

Attorney-General Christian Porter said up to 300 people on Manus Island and Nauru could secure immediate medical approval to come to Australia.

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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