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AUSTRALIA’S minority Liberal Party government suffered a humiliating defeat in Parliament today.
This came as opposition parties and crossbench MPs voted in favour of a Bill giving asylum-seekers access to mainland hospitals for treatment.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison argued the Bill would soften Australia’s harsh stance on refugees which sees them banished to camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
“This Bill is acceptable in absolutely no form. It only weakens our borders, it does not strengthen them,” he told MPs.
However the Bill passed by 75 votes to 74.
This means that doctors and health professionals will now decide whether asylum-seekers can fly into the country for medical treatment instead of officials.
Mr Morrison ruled out a snap election on the issue as Australians are already due to go to the polls in May.
The coalition government lost its majority after former PM Malcolm Turnbull stepped down from politics after being ousted by his party last August.
Amendments to the Bill mean that only the 1,000 asylum-seekers currently held on Nauru and Papua New Guinea will be eligible for treatment and not new arrivals.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten welcomed the development and said: “I believe that we can keep our borders secure, we can uphold national security but still treat people humanely.”
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