The prime minister will head off the loss – the first of its kind since 1929 – by running down the clock on the refugee bill and kicking it down the road until parliament returns next year.
“I will do everything in my power to ensure that these suggested changes that would undermine our border protection laws never see the light of day,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra today.
“I will fight them using whatever tool or tactic I have available to me to ensure that we do not undermine our border protection laws.”
Labor and the Greens have formed an alliance with key crossbench MPs to try and force a vote on legislating faster medical treatment for refugees on Manus Island and Nauru.
The numbers are against the minority Morrison government, exposing it to a humiliating defeat on the final day of parliament for 2018.
The amendments are expected to pass the Senate this afternoon, but the government has the ability to delay the “reporting” of the amendments back to the lower house until next year.
“This is a serious place. It should not be treated like a game. This is not reality television,” Morrison said.
“Bill Shorten does not have the mettle to deal with national security … Bill Shorten is a clear and present threat to Australia’s national security.”
Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said her party would work with the Greens and crossbench to ensure sick people – children in particular – could be brought to Australia for treatment.
“The background of this is the government has failed to find permanent homes for people living on Manus Island and Nauru,” Plibersek told reporters.
“These people have been on Manus Island and Nauru for too long. We do need to find permanent homes to settle those refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.”
The proposed laws, being driven by Sydney independent MP Kerryn Phelps, would allow critically ill refugees to be flown to Australia for medical treatment on the advice of two doctors.
The immigration minister would still need to sign off on the medical evacuations.
Still, the prime minister argued the changes would “completely crumble” Australia’s offshore processing system.
“I will fight them on this,” Morrison said.
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