Independent Senator Derryn Hinch reacts during Senate Question Time. Picture: AAP
Independent Senator Derryn Hinch reacts during Senate Question Time. Picture: AAP

Shock twist after PM’s historic defeat

IN ANOTHER dramatic twist after the government's historic defeat in parliament yesterday, crossbencher Derryn Hinch might now block the medical evacuations bill for asylum seekers in the Senate.

The radio host turned Justice Party senator is requesting a security briefing on the bill before he votes today, potentially giving Prime Minister Scott Morrison a reprieve after the bill passed the House of Representatives 75 votes to 74 last night.

It was the first time a federal government had lost a vote on a substantive piece of legislation since 1941.

Dr Kerryn Phelps with Julia Banks and Rebekha Sharkie after the vote passed the House overnight. The controversial Medivac Bill gives doctors more say to transfer refugees to Australia. Picture Gary Ramage
Dr Kerryn Phelps with Julia Banks and Rebekha Sharkie after the vote passed the House overnight. The controversial Medivac Bill gives doctors more say to transfer refugees to Australia. Picture Gary Ramage

Senator Hinch backed the legislation when it went through the Senate in December.

But if he refuses to support it today, Labor won't have enough numbers to pass it through the Senate.

"Last December I voted mainly to get kids of Nauru and the kids are all off Nauru - or the last three or four are heading for the US," Senator Hinch told reporters in Canberra this morning.

"And I've made it quite clear that I still believe in offshore processing.

"I just want to see, before I make any decisions, where the bill is at for the moment.

Senator Derryn Hinch backed the legislation when it went through the Senate in December. Picture: Kym Smith
Senator Derryn Hinch backed the legislation when it went through the Senate in December. Picture: Kym Smith

"We haven't actually physically seen the amendments that went through the Senate last night."

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton praised Senator Hinch's caution this morning, saying: "It seems to me that Derryn Hinch is showing the leadership that Mr Shorten lacks".

The minister will assemble the heads of Australia's security agencies involved in Operation Sovereign Borders to brief Senator Hinch this morning.

"I hope that Mr Hinch, as I'm sure that he will because I think that he is a responsible person and he shows leadership, will heed the advice of the agency heads," Mr Dutton told reporters in Canberra.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham also urged Senator Hinch to clock the bill, saying: "It is legislation that send the signal that the alternative government of Australia is weaker on border protection."

"I would urge Derryn Hinch and every other Senate crossbencher, and frankly Bill Shorten and the Labor Party, to think again about the consequences of this and the necessity of it," Senator Birmingham told Sky News.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and PM Scott Morrison during a vote in the House of Representatives Chamber. Picture Kym Smith
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and PM Scott Morrison during a vote in the House of Representatives Chamber. Picture Kym Smith

Prime Minister Morrison also looks likely to avoid a humiliating defeat on a vote to add extra sitting days in March to deal with the banking royal commission recommendations thanks to crossbench MP Bob Katter.

The Katter's Australia Party leader has told The Australian he won't back Labor's push to extend the sitting dates, saying Commissioner Kenneth Hayne's findings aren't "worth two bob".

He called for immediate action to crack down on misconduct in the banking sector instead.

"I'm in a pretty powerful position and I want outcomes. I don't want any more looking into it or further inquiries or extending parliament, I just want it to happen," Mr Katter told the publication.

Opposition Bill Shorten during Question Time. Picture Gary Ramage
Opposition Bill Shorten during Question Time. Picture Gary Ramage

"If the ALP were fair dinkum they'd adopt that position. You can't threaten the government but I'm more inclined to be nice to them if they're doing some of the things that desperately need to be done."

Regardless of how the vote plays out today, yesterday's vote has given the government fodder to attack Labor over border protection ahead of the election.

Mr Morrison yesterday said every new boat arrival "is on Bill Shorten's head".

He also said the government was already discussing "contingency measures", which could include reopening Christmas Island detention centre if there was a new wave of boat arrivals.



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