Secrets that won Jacqui Lambie’s Medevac vote
INDEPENDENT Jacqui Lambie was provided classified, secret briefings and advised that asylum seekers on Nauru could be resettled in New Zealand - if they were prevented from ever coming to Australia - to secure her vote to repeal Labor's controversial Medevac Bill.
The Morrison Government provided Senator Lambie highly restricted information about the details of Operation Sovereign Borders, what was being done to deal with the legacy caseload on Manus Island and Nauru, and current policies.
The inside story on how the Morrison Government secured its much-needed end-of-year victory was struck not by a "deal" with Senator Lambie, but just classified briefings and a thorough run-through of a complex policy.
It included the Government's long-held position that it had not closed the door to New Zealand's offer to resettle asylum seeker families on Nauru.
However, the Morrison Government will not take up NZ's offer until it can determine how to stop any refugee transferred to NZ from coming to Australia.
Under Australian law, New Zealanders are entitled to a travel right under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement. The 444 visa effectively provides visa-free travel to Australia.
The repealed Medevac laws mean sick asylum seekers, who cannot be treated on PNG or Nauru, will now be treated in Taiwan or other developed countries, and in some cases, in Australia. It reverts to the process in place before Medevac passed the Parliament last year.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton now has greater control to knock back asylum seekers from being treated in Australia, and the ones who are, will be returned offshore if possible.
Medevac did not have an explicit mechanism to return patients once their treatment was finalised in Australia.
Labor's Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally accused the Government of doing secret deals.
"Without the full details of this secret deal, how on earth can senators have a vote in this debate," Senator Keneally said.
An emotional Senator Lambie explained her decision to repeal Medevac laws.
Fighting back tears, the senator said it had been a difficult decision she had worked out with the Government over the past week.
But she said she could not disclose the details due to national security reasons.
"I know that's frustrating to people. And I get that. I don't like holding things back like this," she said. "But when I say I can't discuss it publicly due to national security concerns, I am being 100 per cent honest to you.
"My hand is on my heart and I can stand here and say that I would be putting at risk Australia's national security and national interest if I said anything else about this."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was the Government's policy to ensure those on Nauru are resettled.
Mr Dutton said Australia's borders were now strengthened with the repeal of the laws. "This was never about bringing people here for medical need because people were already receiving that medical need,'' Mr Dutton said.
"This was always a law that was always about getting people here through the backdoor and … we've closed that backdoor."