Derryn Hinch to vote with Labor and pass refugee medical transfer bill

NSW Doctor Sara Townend with other young doctors at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra

NSW Doctor Sara Townend with other young doctors at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra

On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would reopen the Christmas Island detention centre - which closed previous year - to cope with what he predicted would be an influx of transfers from Manus Island and Nauru.

It lost a vote on the Medivac Bill 75 to 74.

"I'm not sure if it's going to have any great effect (on votes) but I do think it's a precursor to what the government's going to try and do in the election campaign".

The Christmas Island immigration detention camp, south of Jakarta, Indonesia, was a favorite target of people smugglers who brought asylum seekers from Asia, Africa and the Middle East in rickety boats from Indonesian ports before the trade virtually stopped in recent years.

He declined to specify what those classified measures were, other than to announce the reopening of the camp on Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory some 2,300 km northwest of the western city of Perth.

The UN has criticised Australia's detention policies as "inhumane", but the nation insists they prevent human trafficking and save lives at sea.

Scott Morrison announced $78 million in fresh funding for families escaping domestic abuse, as part of a wider speech about domestic and worldwide security.

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Last year, Australians were horrified by reports of a mental health crisis among children on Nauru - including cases of attempted suicide.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate where the LNP holds only 31 out of 76 seats, will force the medical transfers of asylum seekers being held in offshore detention to Australia if two doctors agree it is necessary.

The later version of the Labor proposal applies the same section of the Migration Act but adds the condition that the minister must "reasonably believe the person would expose the Australian community to a serious risk of criminal conduct".

Its defeat, the first such loss of a lower house vote on a bill since 1941, comes as the government has struggled for months to close a six-point gap in Australia's most widely watched opinion poll. It later cleared the Senate.

Phil Glendenning, President of the Refugee Council of Australia said, "We thank and congratulate all the Members of Parliament and Senators who came together and voted with their conscience on this long overdue legislation".

While opposition leader Bill Shorten has voiced support for the bill, the government has been advised the move would undermine the security of Australia's borders.

"[This is] a pattern of deceit and desperation from a man who is desperate to cling to office - a man who has nothing left, nothing left but deceit, fear and smear", she told the chamber on Wednesday. At its peak in 2010, the Christmas Island facility was home to around 2,400 people.

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