Defiant Scott Morrison fights to avoid historic loss over Nauru

“What is the purpose of this? To seek a cheap win in the House of Representatives.

“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.”

Earlier, Mr Morrison lashed out at the “destructive, irresponsible and reckless” amendments, warning it would encourage people smugglers to restart the trade.

“It is a green light coming from Labor teaming up with the Greens to basically completely crumble offshore processing in this country,” Mr Morrison told 2GB.

He said criticism of offshore processing on Nauru was potentially “racist” and only 10 children remained on Nauru.

In a game of parliamentary tactics, the government wants the encryption bill to be rushed through the lower house on Thursday so it can then head to the Senate and dozens of amendments be introduced. That would then potentially put off debate in the Senate on the medical transfer amendments to a non-controversial Home Affairs Bill.

If the medical transfer amendments do get through the Senate, the government will then have to either try to change the Bill back to its original form, risking defeat, or delay it by pushing it down the order and filibustering debate.

The proposed amendments in the Senate allowing medical transfers were introduced by independent Senator Tim Storer and Greens Senator Nick McKim on Wednesday afternoon, and seek to replicate a private members Bill introduced by high-profile independent Kerryn Phelps.

Dr Phelps’ Bill would allow an asylum seeker to be transferred to Australia for medical care on the orders of doctors, removing the Home Affairs Minister’s power to veto a transfer.

Her Bill is languishing in the House Of Representatives because supporters lack the numbers to get the 76 votes required for an absolute majority required under parliamentary rules to bring it on for debate.

But by amending a government bill, Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers believe it can be passed by a simple majority.

Crossbenchers Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, independents Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie, and former Liberal Julia Banks are expected to join Dr Phelps, Labor and the Greens’ Adam Bandt to pass the bill in the lower house.

Under the ambush Labor and crossbenchers staged on Wednesday evening, the Senate resolved for debate on the amended Bill to begin at 12.45pm on Thursday, with a vote no later than 1.50pm. After that, the Bill would then return to the House of Representatives.

The last time a government lost a vote on a piece of legislation was in 1929. The then prime minister Stanley Bruce had made it a matter of confidence and called an election the next day after the vote. The Nationalist government lost the subsequent election.

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