La­bor Left plots as PM sets up poll face-off

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - JOE KELLY GE­OFF CHAM­BERS

La­bor’s Left fac­tion will push to fast-track refugee med­i­cal trans­fers to Aus­tralia through a change to the party plat­form at next week­end’s ALP na­tional con­fer­ence as Scott Mor­ri­son sets up an elec­tion show­down on bor­der se­cu­rity.

The Week­end Aus­tralian un­der­stands La­bor’s Left cau­cus will meet late next week, shortly be­fore the con­fer­ence, to fi­nalise key amend­ments to the plat­form.

It is un­der­stood se­nior La­bor MPs have ex­pressed con­cerns that the nexus be­tween the Coali­tion and La­bor on bor­der pro­tec­tion was at risk of shat­ter­ing af­ter the op­po­si­tion sup­ported rule changes that would al­low asy­lum-seek­ers en­try into Aus­tralia with the ap­proval of doc­tors and an in­de­pen­dent med­i­cal panel.

Bill Shorten yes­ter­day re­jected claims La­bor was soft­en­ing its po­si­tion on bor­der pro­tec­tion amid crit­i­cism from the Prime Min­is­ter, who warned that the op­po­si­tion’s sup­port for doc­torordered med­i­cal evac­u­a­tions to Aus­tralia would “abol­ish off­shore pro­cess­ing as we know it”.

“We will turn back boats where it is safe to do so. We will still keep off­shore pro­cess­ing full stop,” the Op­po­si­tion Leader said.

“But if Mr Mor­ri­son is try­ing to ar­gue that the only way you have bor­ders, pro­tec­tions, is not to pro­vide timely med­i­cal treat­ment to some asy­lum-seek­ers on Manus and Nauru, that’s rub­bish.’’

In his first com­ments on Mr Shorten’s shift on refugee pol­icy, Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Pe­ter Dut­ton told The Week­end Aus­tralian “ex­actly as Kevin Rudd did; Bill Shorten is ly­ing to the Aus­tralian peo­ple about La­bor’s boats pol­icy”.

“Kevin Rudd waited un­til he had won the elec­tion be­fore he re­vealed the real pol­icy. Bill Shorten can’t even hold it to­gether on bor­der pro­tec­tion pol­icy in op­po­si­tion, so imag­ine how bad he would be as prime min­is­ter,” Mr

Dut­ton said. He said that boats would “restart within weeks” if La­bor was elected next year.

“Fam­i­lies will drown at sea and kids will be back in de­ten­tion. The mess will be a dis­as­ter and Bill Shorten pre­tend­ing to be tough on boats is now ex­posed for the lie it is,” he said.

Mr Dut­ton, who missed the fi­nal par­lia­men­tary sit­ting fort­night with an arm in­jury, ac­cused Mr Shorten of pre­tend­ing to be “tough on boats … It is Kevin Rudd all over again. Kevin Rudd tricked peo­ple all the way into gov­ern­ment; at least peo­ple know now that if you vote for La­bor, you get the boats.”

The ALP has set up a work­ing group to con­sider mi­gra­tion and asy­lum-seeker is­sues ahead of the na­tional con­fer­ence, with party sources say­ing it would con­sider a plat­form change to give ef­fect to the par­lia­men­tary party’s de­ci­sion to sup­port the stream­lin­ing of med­i­cal trans­fers for refugees.

Mr Mor­ri­son said there was no com­pelling ar­gu­ment for the over­haul, which would give a med­i­cal panel the power to con­firm or re­ject a med­i­cal trans­fer rec­om­mended by doc­tors.

The im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter would also have the power to veto med­i­cal evac­u­a­tions on na­tional se­cu­rity grounds

Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter David Cole­man told The Week­end Aus­tralian that un­der La­bor’s rule changes, “a per­son who has been con­victed of se­ri­ous of­fences would have to come to Aus­tralia and there is noth­ing the min­is­ter could do to stop it”.

The gov­ern­ment said the re­spon­si­ble min­is­ter would have no dis­cre­tion un­der the pro­posed amend­ments to the Mi­gra­tion Act to block a non-refugee con­victed of sex as­sault, mur­der, rape, vi­o­lent as­sault and se­ri­ous drug of­fences. It said if a refugee was un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for crim­i­nal of­fences, the gov­ern­ment would be forced to trans­fer them to Aus­tralia if two doc­tors as­sessed they should be brought in for med­i­cal treat­ment or assess­ment.

It also warned that two doc­tors who have never met a “trans­feree” could make rec­om­men­da­tions on the ba­sis of a re­mote con­sul­ta­tion via Skype.

The Week­end Aus­tralian has con­firmed that in his re­port yes- ter­day to a Lib­eral Party fed­eral ex­ec­u­tive meet­ing in Can­berra, the Prime Min­is­ter said he would not give Mr Shorten “any lee­way” over La­bor’s sup­port for the med­i­cal evac­u­a­tions.

Mr Mor­ri­son yes­ter­day said the La­bor-Greens-cross­bench pro­posed leg­isla­tive changes pre­sented a “great risk to Aus­tralia’s bor­ders”.

Mr Shorten at­tacked the gov­ern­ment, say­ing it was en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple-smug­glers to test La­bor’s re­solve if it won of­fice at the next elec­tion.

He also honed his pitch to Lib­eral vot­ers dis­sat­is­fied with the Coali­tion fol­low­ing the gov­ern­ment’s loss in the Went­worth by­elec­tion in Oc­to­ber and the re­cent de­fec­tion of Vic­to­rian Lib­eral MP Ju­lia Banks.

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