‘Labor will restart the boats’: Peter Dutton slams Bill Shorten over border protection – after it was revealed the opposition leader is pushing to allow asylum seekers into Australia even if they have criminal convictions
- Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has hit out at opposition leader Bill Shorten
- Dutton says laws endorsed by the Labor Party will ‘collapse’ border protection
- He says taking asylum seekers in for medical treatment will ‘restart the boats’
- But the Labor party hit back, saying Liberals were just making up ‘desperate lies’
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has lashed out at the Labor Party, accusing them of endorsing a policy that would ‘collapse’ Australia’s border protection.
Mr Dutton’s criticism comes after the Bill Shorten-led opposition backed a bill that would see ill asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru transported to Australia to receive medical treatment.
Should the policy pass the lower house in February, Mr Dutton says it will ‘restart the boats’.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton (pictured) says Bill Shorten’s Labor has supported laws that would ‘restart’ a flow of boats full of asylum seekers
Mr Shorten hit back, saying his government will ‘turn back boats’ if it is safe to do so. Pictured are asylum seekers on Manus Island
‘What Labor is proposing here is a back doorway to end regional processing. That is one of the three limbs that has stopped the boats,’ Mr Dutton told reporters in Brisbane on Saturday.
Labor offered conditional support for crossbencher Kerryn Phelps’ bill earlier in the week, sparking Mr Dutton’s criticisms.
The legislation was eventually delayed by the federal government in a bid to avoid a historic loss in the House of Representatives.
Dr Phelps, the newly-elected Independent MP for Wentworth, proposed laws which would see critically ill refugees be flown to Australia for medical treatment on the advice of two doctors.
But it was revealed earlier the bill would not include considerations for the applicant’s character, meaning those with serious prior convictions would be allowed into the country.
In medical cases where a foreign national has to be sent to Australia to treatment, doctors could even make the final decision via Skype.
Bill Shorten’s (pictured) Labor party backed laws that would see asylum seekers taken in for medical treatment
Immigration minister David Coleman was one of the first to slam the proposed law.
‘Under Labor’s law, a person who has been convicted of serious offences would have to come to Australia and there is nothing the minister could do to stop it,’ he told The Daily Telegraph.
‘For the alternative prime minister to support this is staggering.’
The only grounds under which the minister could fight the doctors’ recommendations would be medically-based or if the person was a terror threat.
However, speaking in support of Dr Phelps’ bill, Mr Shorten shifted the focus to the dangers of offshore detention.
‘Labor does not accept the corollary between discouraging the people-smuggling trade and keeping people in detention for five plus years. That’s shameful,’ he told ABC Radio.
The laws were first proposed by newly-elected Independent MP for Wentworth Dr Kerryn Phelps (pictured)
Labor finance spokesman Jim Chalmers also hit back at Mr Dutton, saying the Liberals were making up ‘desperate lies’.
‘The fact is, Labor will never let the people smugglers back into business,’ he told reporters on Saturday.
‘The urgent medical transfer amendments that passed the Senate this week are about making sure sick children and adults get the medical care they need.’
Mr Dutton still has ‘ultimate discretion’ over transfers, Mr Chalmers said.
‘The legislation enshrines the minister’s discretion to reject transfers – currently the government makes ad hoc decisions often rejecting medical advice,’ he said.
Mr Shorten also rejected claims he was softening his approach to border protection, telling The Australian accusations he would ‘abolish offshore processing’ were false.
‘We will turn back boats where it is safe to do so. We will still keep offshore processing full stop,’ Mr Shorten said.
‘But if Mr Morrison is trying to argue that the only way you have borders, protections, is not to provide timely medical treatment to some asylum-seekers on Manus and Nauru, that’s rubbish.’