Embattled Australian PM suffers historic defeat over refugees

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was defeated by MPs who insisted refugees held in offshore facilities have the right to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment. (AFP/File)
Updated 12 February 2019
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Embattled Australian PM suffers historic defeat over refugees

  • MPs insist migrants being detained have right to access to medical treatment in Australia
  • The vote is a monumental political defeat for the conservative minority government

CANBERRA: Australia’s conservative minority government suffered a monumental political defeat Tuesday, becoming the first administration in nearly a century to lose a vote on major legislation and fueling calls for a snap election.
Despite a bruising and highly personal lobbying effort, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was defeated by MPs who insisted refugees held in offshore facilities have the right to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment.
It is the first time in decades that an Australian government has lost a vote on a substantive piece of legislation, sparking applause and cheers from observers in the parliamentary viewing gallery in Canberra.
Morrison lost his parliamentary majority last year and has been relying on crossbenchers to keep control of the lower House of Representatives.
The 75-74 vote — which came on the first sitting day of parliament this year — is a blow to the already embattled prime minister and raised questions about whether he can remain in office.
When the sitting government last lost a vote on substantive legislation in 1929, then prime minister Stanley Bruce immediately called an election, and lost it.
The government of prime minister Arthur Fadden lost a symbolic budget vote in 1941 and immediately resigned.
Morrison last week ruled out calling a snap election if his government was defeated over the “stupid” bill.
His coalition has to call an election by May and has been trailing the opposition center-left Labour Party in opinion polls.
The bill was first mooted by independent MP Kerryn Phelps last year after she won the Liberal Party stronghold of Wentworth when former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was ousted in a party coup.
Since then, the government had lurched from crisis to crisis, and a disastrous showing in elections in Victoria state sparked fears that it would also lose the national poll.
Under a harsh policy meant to deter asylum-seekers from reaching Australia by boat, Canberra sent arrivals to Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing and barred them from resettling in Australia.
But criticism of the camps has grown amid reports of abuse, suicides and lengthy detention periods, even as the government says the policy is discouraging asylum-seekers from embarking on dangerous sea voyages.


Rohingya refugees protest exodus, demand rights in Myanmar

Updated 25 August 2019
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Rohingya refugees protest exodus, demand rights in Myanmar

  • The event comes days after Bangladesh attempted to start the repatriation of 3,450 Rohingya Muslims
  • Another rally opposing the force repatriation is planned for Sunday

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Thousands of angry and frustrated Rohingya refugees have marked the second anniversary of their exodus from Myanmar into Bangladesh by demanding their citizenship and other rights in the country they fled from.
The event comes days after Bangladesh attempted to start the repatriation of 3,450 Rohingya Muslims but none agreed to go back voluntarily.
More than 1 million Rohingya live in Bangladesh.
On Sunday morning, more than 3,000 gathered at a playground in Kutupalong camp. Some carried placards and banners reading “Never Again! Rohingya Genocide Remembrance Day,” and “Restore our citizenship.”
Organizer Muhib Ullah says they plan a massive rally later Sunday.
Myanmar has consistently denied human rights violations and says military operations in Rakhine state were justified in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.