Australia to reopen Christmas Island detention centre: PM Morrison

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"The opening of Christmas Island, I believe, was a political gesture created to fuel domestic political unrest but I'm anxious that we'll have tragic consequences because this is a government addicted to slogans and fear", he added.

The government lost a series of votes by 74-75 after the Labor party joined forces with Greens and the majority of the crossbench on Tuesday to pass amendments that give doctors a greater say on medical evacuations.

"My job now is to ensure that the boats don't come", Morrison told reporters.

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.

"My job now is to ensure that the boats don't come", he said.

PM Scott Morrison approved reopening Christmas Island after a legislative defeat in Parliament allowed refugees and asylum seekers detained in existing offshore centres to travel to Australia for medical treatment.

The bill, which has now passed both houses of Parliament and will become law, will allow for the medical transfer of asylum seekers to Australia for treatment.

He accused Labor leader Bill Shorten of ignoring security advice on the controversial bill.

The home affairs minister will have 72 hours to make a decision on whether to grant the transfer, with the extended deadline important in winning Senator Hinch over.

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Labor workplace relations spokesman Brendan O'Connor said the Prime Minister had chosen to "misrepresent the truth" and "lie to the Australian people" in an attempt to gain political advantage when he should be safeguarding the national interest.

Labor legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus said Mr Morrison had chosen to "endorse lies".

It was not clear if the government plans to treat asylum seekers on Christmas Island, thereby denying them access to the mainland, a lawyer for a refugee advocacy group said.

Mr Porter said a refugee on Manus Island was facing sex abuse charges and someone on Nauru had been charged with indecently assaulting a child.

John Coyne, a former Australian Federal Police officer now at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the law was well-constructed but it did "change the narrative", which could encourage some people to risk a boat journey.

"They should be ashamed of themselves for luring people to Australia by somehow implying that this government hasn't got strong borders".

The prime minister contended Shorten would be responsible if new boats arrived because "he led this process to weaken and compromise our borders".

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.

The government says the Christmas Island re-start will cost about $1.4 billion over four years.

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