Scott Morrison will visit Christmas Island this week, promising an upgrade to services amid claims Australians will be “kicked off” waiting lists due to the influx of refugees.
But his decision to travel 3385 kilometres to highlight his decision to reopen the detention centre is raising eyebrows, given he will not travel to Indonesia for the signing of the landmark free trade deal.
Instead, he’s sending his Trade Minister Simon Birmingham and Defence Industry Minister Steven Ciobo, who is no longer even a member of cabinet after he quit politics over the weekend.
The Prime Minister will travel to Broome and then on to Christmas Island, where locals have already expressed concerns over the capacity of the island’s hospital to cope with the influx.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has even claimed the arrival of up to 1000 men could have an effect on waiting lists across the country, a claim rejected as an “overreach” by Labor.
Mr Morrison this week described the departure of the last children off Nauru as a big achievement, but hundreds of men remain in limbo in offshore processing.
Mr Morrison maintains he is sticking to the policy that they will never resettle in Australia, despite the fact many will travel here for medical treatment under the new legislation.
“I haven’t changed the policy on that. The Labor party have sought to change it by effectively abolishing offshore processing by what they did in the Parliament,” he said.
“And to provide a loophole to allow people to come to Australia from both of those countries simply for the purpose of the medical assessment, which they can get quite ably on Manus [Island] and Nauru, particularly Nauru, where there’s 60 medical professionals … one for every seven people.”
Despite predictions that up to 1000 men could be sent to Australia from Manus Island, to date only 70 applications are being processed.
“If someone needs very serious medical attention, they’ve always been getting it. They’ve always been brought to Australia for it and some of them have gone to Port Moresby. Some have gone to Taiwan,” Mr Morrison said.