The Senate has scuttled the coalition government’s reintroduction of temporary protection visas.
Labor and the Greens teamed up on Monday night to pass a disallowance motion in the Senate, 36 votes to 26, to quash the controversial visas.
The coalition government reintroduced temporary protection visas via regulation in October as a key plank of its hardline Operation Sovereign Borders policy aimed at discouraging asylum seeker boat journeys.
It must now wait for six months to reintroduce regulation of the same substance.
Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young told the chamber the government’s cruelty should not harm the hearts of people who have suffered so much already.
“No longer will these refugees have to live in limbo,” she said.
“These visas never worked as a deterrent, they only punished the most vulnerable.”
Assistant Minister for Immigration Michaelia Cash said if Labor supported the motion it proved they stood for nothing more than “promulgating the people smugglers’ business model”.
“The choice for the opposition is very clear,” she said, before going on to attack the previous Labor government’s “disastrous legacy” on asylum seeker boat arrivals.
Labor frontbencher Kim Carr told the chamber Labor supported the motion because the visas could result in further tragedies.
“TPVs act as a magnate for women and children… such is the desperation of people seeking to be reunited with their loved ones,” Senator Carr said, explaining that the visas remove scope for family reunions.
The temporary visas were used during the Howard government era.
They gave refugees protection for up to three years and banned them from applying for permanent protection.
Labor abolished the visas in August 2008.
Monday’s outcome was slammed by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison who vows to press on with the coalition’s commitments to fight people smuggling.
“The vote to abolish TPVs (temporary protection visas) is a vote to deliver on the promise of people smugglers to more than 33,000 people who turned up illegally on boats,” Mr Morrison said in a statement issued late on Monday.
He added that the backlog of asylum seekers waiting to be issued with visas under Labor’s system will not be settled by the coalition.
“We will be keeping our promise to deny permanent residence to those who arrived illegally by boat, whether they turned up three months ago or three years ago.”