Scott Morrison has shut down any prospect that he will cut a deal with Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie on medevac to send refugees to New Zealand, even if it means the laws fail in the Senate.
The laws give doctors more powers to bring sick refugees from offshore detention to Australia for medical treatment.
The Prime Minister argues, however, they are undermining resettlement offers from third countries, with some refugees choosing to come to Australia on a medical visa rather than resettle overseas, and should be repealed.
While Senator Lambie has not publicly stated her demands, she has not denied reports she will back the repeal of medevac if the Liberals agree to take up New Zealand’s offer to resettle refugees.
Mr Morrison was quick to rule out the NZ option on Monday as negotiations with the crossbench continue.
“Our policies on those matters haven’t changed,” Mr Morrison said.
Despite the knockback, a spokeswoman for Senator Lambie insisted negotiations were continuing after she met the PM on Monday morning.
The defeat of the legislation now appears likely, but the PM is determined to put the legislation to a vote regardless, to highlight Labor’s ‘weakness’ on border security.
“We will most certainly put the medevac repeal legislation to a vote this week,” Senator Mathias Cormann said.
“Every individual senator has to make a decision: Whether they stand on the side of stronger national security or weaker national security.”
One Nation’s Pauline Hanson is backing the repeal of medevac, revealing she had given Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton her word.
“I have given him my guarantee that I will back it. He knows my word is my bond,” Senator Hanson said.
“(But) I don’t intend to tell them how I’m going to vote on anything in future.”
Her remarks follow the Senate voting down new laws to crack down on rogue unions, which the Morrison government believed One Nation would vote for.
Senator Cormann said the Morrison government was not going to support any compromise that undermines border security.
“We are very mindful of making sure that we maintain strong border protection arrangements and we don’t provide an incentive for the people smugglers to get boats going again. That has consistently been our position,” he said.
“We will not be making any changes to our strong border protection arrangements. And we will not be making any changes to the way we’ve been dealing with Labor’s legacy caseload.”