Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has accused the Labor party of supporting a policy that will end offshore detention of asylum seekers and restart the boats.
Mr Dutton has hit out at the opposition’s support of a bill to urgently transfer sick asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia, saying border protection would “collapse” under Labor and “the boats will restart”.
“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.
The comments come after Labor offered conditional support for crossbencher Kerryn Phelps’s bill earlier this week, before the legislation was delayed by the government in a bid to duck a historic loss in the House of Representatives.
The proposed laws, being driven by Sydney MP Dr Phelps, would allow critically ill refugees to be flown to Australia for medical treatment on the advice of two doctors.
Labor’s finance spokesman Jim Chalmers 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.”
The home affairs minister 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.