Christmas Island move 'hysteria'

Christmas Island move 'hysteria'

Mr Dutton said any new arrivals would go to Nauru, but added it was also possible medical transferees could end up on Christmas Island, where the detention centre will be reopened after closing in October a year ago.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison before losing the vote on Tuesday night.

Changes to Australia's border policy have passed through parliament, as the government warns this will lead to more illegal boat arrivals.

"I totally repudiate the attacks of the government, seeking to whip up fear and hysteria, seeking to lure people smugglers to entice people onto boats to come to Australia", he told reporters.

Morrison approved the reopening of the remote facility - closed just months ago - claiming new laws just passed by parliament would increase the number of people trying to arrive in Australia illegally.

"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 ruling coalition lost the majority in the Lower House previous year.

"We need to stop risking lives".

"Yesterday was a victory for the conscience of this nation", Asylum Seeker Resource Center chief executive Kon Karapanagiotidis said of the House vote.

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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.

Independent MP Kerryn Phelps and Greens leader Richard Di Natale have also predicted several hundred asylum seekers could qualify for transfer and treatment.

What happened at Christmas Island previously? A wooden boat carrying 90 asylum seekers from Iran and Iraq ran onto rocks on Christmas Island in 2010, killing 48.

It previously also sent detainees to Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean which is about 2,600km (1,600 miles) from the mainland and 300km south of Indonesia. But 17 Vietnamese asylum seekers who reached northeast Australia in August last year - the first boat arrival in four years - were sent to Christmas Island before they were returned to their homeland.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton turned the political blowtorch back on Labor, saying there was no truth in advertising among people smugglers.

Mr Morrison denied his trumped-up rhetoric played into the hands of people smugglers.

"If you steal from a bank you go to jail, but if the bank steals from you there's no guarantee they'll even get to court", said Mr Shorten.

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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