Independent Member for Wentworth Kerryn Phelps
Independent Member for Wentworth Kerryn Phelps

Phelps blasts PM’s Christmas Island plan

KERRYN Phelps has blasted the government for a "subversion" of democracy over its plans to send any sick refugees transferred under new medivac laws to Christmas Island.

The crossbench MP, instrumental in passing the medivac laws last week, took to Twitter last night to slam the government's plans to send any transferred refugees to the Australian territory of Christmas Island, rather than the mainland.

It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted this morning he was unsure what impact new Nauruan laws limiting medical evacuations for asylum seekers would have on Australia's laws.

The Nauruan government has reportedly enacted new laws limiting medical evacuations and banning remote medical assessments of refugees after legislation passed making it easier for asylum seekers to be taken from offshore processing.

"It's not quite clear what they've done and how that will play out," Mr Morrison told 3AW today.

Pushed on whether Nauru would tighten border security, Mr Morrison said: "There's no leave pass here for Labor. Labor weakened the border protection laws last week wilfully."

He added the boats were "always at risk of coming".

Scott Morrison says he’s unsure what impact new Nauruan laws limiting medical evacuations for asylum seekers would have on Australia’s laws. Picture: AAP
Scott Morrison says he’s unsure what impact new Nauruan laws limiting medical evacuations for asylum seekers would have on Australia’s laws. Picture: AAP

Mr Morrison reiterated government claims that 265 asylum seekers rejected by the United States could come to Australia under the new regime.

"In a lot of these cases they won't have serious criminal convictions but they may well be facing charges for such convictions and not have been sentenced," the prime minister said.

"What Labor did to the laws means there is no ability for us to stop those transfers."

Under the changes, which were delivered in a historic parliamentary defeat for the government, two doctors will be able to recommend asylum seekers currently on Manus Island and Nauru for medical transfer.

Refugees near the entry gate of a Nauru detention camp. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Refugees near the entry gate of a Nauru detention camp. Picture: Nathan Edwards

The home affairs minister will have 72 hours to make a decision on whether to agree to a medical transfer.

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

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the people barred by the US could "most certainly" come to Australia under the laws passed last week against the government's wishes.

"(People) are starting to understand the ramifications of what it is they've imposed on our border protection system," he told Sky News today.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says the medivac laws could restart boat arrivals.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says the medivac laws could restart boat arrivals.

Despite the new system only applying to people already in offshore processing centres, Mr Dutton is adamant the move could restart boat arrivals.

"Do you think in a village in Indonesia that people are going to understand the nuance?" he said.

"If there's a change of government there's no doubt in my mind the boats will restart under Bill Shorten."

- with AAP



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