Scott Morrison's Response To The Medivac Bill Is Reopening Christmas Island

Anthony Albanese during Question Time in the House of Representatives

Anthony Albanese says there may need to"tweak the bill on medical transfers for asylum seekers. AAP

The Australian government has lost control of the parliament for the first time in nearly a century, losing a major vote on a bill to help evacuate critically ill refugees from offshore processing centers.

Labor, the Greens and four independents backed the bill in the Senate after the same legislation was passed in the House of Representatives yesterday.

Australia's conservative minority government suffered a damaging political defeat on Tuesday (Feb 12), becoming the first administration in almost a century to lose a vote on major legislation and sparking calls for a snap election.

Prime minister Scott Morrison will speak at the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday - where he will argue only his government can protect Australians from local and global threats.

"If we're sending people who really need [help] to Australia already, why make a big deal of it, and why create a symbol that says we're going to get even kinder?"

The Senate passed similar amendments on medical evacuations despite ruling party objections on the last day Parliament sat previous year.

"Every arrival is on Bill Shorten and Labor's head".

Late a year ago, public pressure over severe health issues facing children living on the islands prompted officials to allow all of them to be relocated to Australia.

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Mr Morrison ruled out calling a snap election, saying the vote was not a no-confidence motion in his government and he was still planning for a national poll in May.

The changes included a provision that only the 1,000 asylum seekers now held on Nauru and Papua New Guinea and not any future arrivals would be considered for medical evacuation under the new regime.

The legislation demonstrates the government's weak hold on power and will put asylum seeker policy at the forefront of campaigning ahead of elections that Morrison wants to hold in May.

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 unsafe sea voyages.

The amendments to the bill were introduced in Parliament back in December. "This is a turning point for the people on Manus Island and Nauru, who for too long have suffered both mentally and physically without access to adequate medical facilities and the care they needed".

Sick asylum seekers often have to fight the Australian government in court for permission to be transferred to an Australian hospital.

Speaking before the vote, Morrison said that the changes would encourage people-smugglers and provoke a new flow of arrivals.

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