Prime Minister Scott Morrison has accused Opposition Leader Bill Shorten of failing a “test of mettle” on national security over an attempt by Labor and cross-bench Senators and MPs to pass legislation requiring the removal of kids, and detainees needing medical attention, from Nauru.
Labor is trying to combine with the Greens and cross-benchers in both House of Parliament to move an amendment to a minor Government bill requiring the Government to remove children and refugees in need of medical attention from offshore processing centres, in the process threatening to inflict an ultra-rare Government defeat on the floor of Parliament.
Mr Morrison accused the opposition leader of “playing politics” on national security, as the Parliamentary chaos threatens to delay the passage of anti-encryption legislation the Government wants passed today.
“I will fight to get those encryption laws passed. And I will fight to stop any change to that offshore processing arrangement which I know directly and personally has been so critical to maintaining the successful border protection framework that has kept our borders secure, and has prevented young people, children, going onto boats and drowning,” he said.
“There are 10 children on Nauru today. So, don't let them tell you this is about getting children off Nauru. That's a con. That's happened. And it happened under the government's border protection arrangements,” he said.
“This is about getting rid of offshore processing. They never believed it in the first place, they had to be forced into even doing it in the dying days of their previous government, and when they implemented it, it was a tragic shocker of an implementation, which took incredible investment and effort to fix.”
Labor and crossbench Senators are seeking to force the Government to move kids and sick refugees from Nauru by moving an amendment to minor legislation the Government already has before the Senate, passing procedural motions to ensure the bill is debated shortly after midday, Canberra time.
If the amendments succeed in the Senate, Labor and cross-bench MPs appear to have the numbers to accept the amendments when the bill returns to the lower house.
That would force the Government to decide whether it will abandon the legislation by delaying a vote until Parliament rises, or seek to undo the changes made in the Senate, risking defeat.
If it loses, it would be the first time an Australian Government has lost a vote on legislation since the Second World war.
Mr Morrison said Labor had shown it was prepared to risk national security in favour of playing politics.
“Their support for amendments in the Senate to abolish offshore processing as we know it, the cheap win in the House of Representatives, don't do it, Bill. The cheap win on the House of Representatives floor is not worth it. You know what you'll be telling every Australian? Every single Australian, if you support those amendment, Bill, you'll be telling them what they really already know, when it comes to border protection, your heart isn't in it, and you and your party cannot be trusted,” he said.
“Bill Shorten is a clear and present threat to Australia's safety. Because he is so obsessed with politics, that he cannot see the national interest.”