The details of a top-secret deal struck between Jacqui Lambie and Scott Morrison to free over 400 refugees from offshore detention centres has finally been revealed.
The agreement was that the government would get hundreds of asylum seekers off Manus Island in exchange for the Tasmanian senator’s vote to repeal the laws allowing doctors to decide when sick refugees could be medevaced to Australia.
Senator Lambie told news.com.au the Prime Minister warned she would risk jail time if she prematurely exposed their agreement reached back in 2018.
However, with New Zealand’s recent announcement that it would begin accepting up to 150 refugees a year, the independent MP is finally free to speak.
Ms Lambie revealed she stoically kept their secret agreement that was detailed a written document kept in a ‘secret safe’ in Parliament House.
The details of a top-secret deal struck between Jacqui Lambie (left) and Scott Morrison (right) to free over 400 refugees from Manus Island has finally been revealed
New Zealand will resettle 150 refugees from Australia each year for three years. Pictured: Asylum seekers behind a fence at the Manus Island detention centre
‘He wouldn’t give it to me, so I couldn’t present anything if I came out and spoke about it,’ the senator said.
‘If I spoke about it, no one was getting off the island,’ she explained. ‘If I had come out and spoke about it I could have ended up in jail.’
Ms Lambie said of jail time was delivered ‘over the table’ from Mr Morrison during discussions of their agreement.
‘I felt really annoyed about that. I thought that (was) quite threatening,’ she said.
The agreement included the prime minister’s word he would accept New Zealand’s offer to welcome refugees in an Australian offshore detention facilities on Nauru as well as those in regional processing centres.
Some of the refugees in detention have been incarcerated for up to nine years with 150 asylum seekers to be resettled each year, for three years.
In return, Ms Lambie abandoned laws that would allow doctors, rather than the government, to decide when sick refugees could be evacuated to Australia.
The secret agreement included the prime minister’s word he would accept New Zealand’s offer to welcome refugees in an Australian offshore detention facilities on Nauru as well as those in regional processing centres (pictured, refugee supporters at a protest in Sydney)
Some of the refugees in detention have been incarcerated for up to nine years with 150 asylum seekers now to be resettled each year, for three years (pictured, refugees on Manus Island)
The tearful senator voted with One Nation for these powers to remain with the government after it was originally passed by independents in 2018.
At the time, Ms Lambie lamented it had been a ‘really hard decision’ to support the repeal but said a certain ‘outcome’ relied upon her backflip.
She said the secret outcome, which was criticised by Labor’s Kristina Keneally, would improve medical treatment for those held in offshore detention.
Ms Keneally questioned the secret deal at the time, and said the Australian public had a right to know what had been agreed upon.
‘There’s been a deal between the Morrison government and Senator Lambie to drive a stake through the heart of Medevac, and they’re keeping it secret from this parliament and from the Australian public,’ she told the Senate.
Ms Lambie (pictured) lamented it had been a ‘really hard decision’ to support the repeal of the Medevac laws in 2018 but said a certain ‘outcome’ relied upon her move
Mr Morrison remained tight-lipped when asked about Ms Lambie’s support of the Medevac deal by reporters in 2018.
‘It means she is happy with the government’s policies and the bill that was presented to the Senate, and she voted for it,’ he said.
Ms Lambie took to Twitter to defend herself on Thursday evening after Australians said she should have spoken up earlier about Mr Morrison’s threat of jail time.
‘I did. Have a look,’ she replied, in reference to an interview with 7:30 in which she threatened to reveal the nature of the deal following years of government inaction.
‘It wasn’t the prison threat keeping me quiet. It was the fact that the deal would be torn up if I said anything,’ she continued.
‘I got close anyway, let me tell you. But in the end I just knew if I was one of them and knew what was at stake, I’d want Lambie to hold the line.’
Ms Lambie took to Twitter to defend herself on Thursday evening (pictured) after Australians said she should have spoken up earlier about Mr Morrison’s threat of jail time
The landmark shift in immigration policy comes after years of Australian politicians expressing concerns a resettlement deal with New Zealand would create a ‘back door’ for refugees to enter Australia.
The arrangement will initially be for refugees who are in Nauru or temporarily in Australia under regional processing arrangements and meet New Zealand’s refugee program requirements.
They must not be in other resettlement pathways, such as Australia’s resettlement arrangement with the United States.
The program will also extend to refugees referred to New Zealand by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The landmark shift in immigration policy will see 150 refugees in offshore detention centres resettled in New Zealand every year, for three years (pictured, Manus Island in 2018)
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews reiterated that no one who travelled to Australia via boat would be resettled.
‘This arrangement does not apply to anyone who attempts an illegal maritime journey to Australia in the future. Australia remains firm – illegal maritime arrivals will not settle here permanently,’ she said.
‘Anyone who attempts to breach our borders will be turned back or sent to Nauru.’
Labor said Scott Morrison has made a ‘humiliating backflip’ after refusing New Zealand’s offer for nine years.
‘This is a humiliating backflip for Scott Morrison who claimed as recently as 2018 that New Zealand’s generous offer to resettle refugees would see people smugglers restart their evil trade,’ Shadow Home Affairs Minister Kristina Keneally said.