Prime Minister Scott Morrison called a meeting with security agencies this morning in the hope of developing a “contingency plan” to strengthen Australia’s borders. The move came in response to a contentious medical transfer bill that passed the House yesterday and the Senate today, which would allow asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to be transferred to Australia on the advice of a medical professional, The Guardian reports. In response, Morrison has authorised the re-opening of the Christmas Island detention centre.
“We have approved putting in place the reopening of the Christmas Island detention facilities, both to deal with the prospect of arrivals as well as dealing with the prospect of transfers,” Morrison announced in a press conference this morning. “My job now is to ensure that the boats don’t come. My job now is to do everything within my power and in the power of the government to ensure that what the Parliament has done to weaken our borders does not result in boats coming to Australia.”
“We remain standing here to ensure that they don’t come,” he continued. “So if they don’t come, it will be because of the work and the decisions we are now taking and the actions we are putting in place. If they do come, you can thank the Labor Party and Bill Shorten because he is the one who has led this process. He has led this process to weaken and compromise our borders.”
The Christmas Island detention centre closed last year after a decade in operation, with the last detainees there being transferred to mainland facilities, SBS reported. At the time, Immigration Minister David Coleman said that the centre would be kept in a state of "operational readiness" so that it could be reopened at short notice. At its peak, the facility held 2400 people.
The medical evacuation bill aims to change existing rules that give the Immigration Minister full discretion to reject refugee transfers. It passed the Senate this morning with 36 votes to 34.
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