Christmas Island: Australia 'to re-open' controversial detention centre

NSW Doctor Sara Townend with other young doctors at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra

Mr Morrison said he expected the new medical evacuation laws could restart the people smuggling trade and Australia needed to be ramp up national security efforts as a result.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced the reopening of the Christmas Island detention centre, marking a harsh response to the historic asylum seeker medical transfer bill which passed in the House of Representatives last night.

Christmas Island's small regional hospital can not cope with an influx of medical transfers from Manus Island and Nauru, the local council warns.

On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would reopen the Christmas Island detention centre - which closed past year - to cope with what he predicted would be an influx of transfers from Manus Island and Nauru.

Morrison brushed aside suggestions that the law would only apply to those already in detention and accused the opposition of a bid to "weaken and compromise our borders".

"We have approved putting in place the reopening of the Christmas Island detention facilities, both to deal with the prospect of arrivals as well as dealing with the prospect of transfers", Morrison said in a press conference following his government's defeat in the parliament.

"My job now is to ensure the boats don't come", Morrison said.

The bill will give doctors more sway on whether sick refugees on Nauru and Manus Island can come to Australia for medical treatment.

The bill must be approved by the upper house to become law, but is likely to pass, as the Senate supported an earlier version past year.

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However, Mr Morrison argued people smugglers did not deal with the nuance of the "Canberra bubble" but rather the psychology of messaging about "stronger" and "weaker" borders.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott played a vital role in stopping the boats in 2013.

He says "the great risk we're now facing" is that the boats will start.

"It might be all fine and nice to talk about these nuances here in this courtyard", he said. I think it's a foolish law.

Meanwhile MP Kerryn Phelps, a key supporter of the bill, dismissed concerns that there will be an influx of new boat arrivals.

The Christmas Island center, on par with detention facilities on Nauru and Manus Island, has become a symbol of Australia's controversial migration policy, associated with torture, mistreatment, and abuse.

"The legislation applies for people who are already there [on Manus and Nauru] - it does not apply to anyone new", he told reporters.

However, the immigration minister would still have some authority to overrule transfers.

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