Scott Morrison Reopens Christmas Island Detention Centre

Scott Morrison has approved the reopening of a detention centre on Christmas Island in the wake of a bill that expedites medical evacuations of refugees and asylum seekers to Australia.

The prime minister's announcement came minutes before the legislation passed the Senate 36-34 on Wednesday thanks to a group of Labor, Greens and crossbench senators.

On Tuesday, a historic loss was recorded for the Coalition as it passed the House of Representatives -- the first time a government had lost a vote on substantive legislation since at least 1941.

Expecting the bill to pass, Morrison claimed changes to medical evacuations would undermine border protection policies and could act as an encouragement for people smugglers.

"My job is to do everything within my power, and in the power of the government, to ensure that what the Parliament has done to weaken our borders does not result in boats coming to Australia," he said.

The legislation, set to become law, strengthens provisions to bring sick and injured refugees from offshore facilities on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia.

But the amended bill outlines these only apply to people currently in detention and not prospective new arrivals.

Morrison denied his rhetoric played into the hands of people smugglers, who do not deal with the nuance of the "Canberra bubble".

"I'm standing between people smugglers and bringing a boat to Australia," he said.

READ MORE: Medical Transfer Bill To Become Law After Passing The Senate 36-34

 READ MORE: 'I Wish I Died In The Boat': Refugees Forgotten In Debate Over Medical Transfer Bill

The government will act on recommendations from the national security committee to strengthen some aspects of Operation Sovereign Borders, including the reopening of the detention centre on Christmas Island which quietly closed last year.

"We have approved putting in place the re-opening of the Christmas Island detention facilities, both to deal with the prospect of arrivals as well as dealing with the prospect of transfers," he said.

Greens leader Richard de Natale called the move a "desperate tactic".

"The prime minister wants to run around the country, thump his chest, sound tough on innocent people seeking asylum, because he’s got nothing else," he said.

Morrison said a federal election would proceed in May despite losing the vote on Tuesday, adding he would not be "intimidated by the Labor Party" from handing down a budget in April.

Contact the author

Featured image: AAP