Dutton flags refugee bill security risks

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton
Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton

It will be easier for murderers and sex offenders to enter Australia if ill refugees can fly to Australia for medical treatment on the advice of two doctors, the home affairs minister says.

The Labor-backed bill passed the upper house last week and is set to give the government a headache when parliament returns in February.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says the proposal doesn't give the minister the final say as to who can enter Australia, which would "trash" the offshore processing system.

"It would be easier for someone charged with a sexual offence to come via boat into our country than it would if they were to try and come here on a spousal visa or a tourist visa," Mr Dutton told Sky News on Monday.

"And the minister would not have a say, an ultimate say, in that circumstance."

The proposed laws, being driven by Sydney independent MP Kerryn Phelps, would allow critically ill refugees to be flown to Australia for medical treatment on the advice of two doctors.

The immigration minister would still need to sign off on the medical evacuations.

The minister would be given just 24 hours to make a determination on medical transfers, and there would be greater transparency over decisions to deny transfers.

Leaked legal advice to the government from ASIO suggests the minister can only reject a medical transfer if an asylum seeker poses a threat linked to espionage, foreign interference, sabotage and politically motivated violence including terrorism.

Murder, sexual assault, child abuse, physical violence and domestic violence are not within the minister's scope and therefore can't be used to block a transfer, News Corp reports on Monday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Labor leader Bill Shorten doesn't understand the changes.

"I don't think he really fully contemplates the compromise that he is putting in to effectively abolishing offshore processing as we know it," Mr Morrison told reporters on Sunday.

"We are going to fight those changes with everything we've got."

Labor says the law changes would not abolish offshore processing, but provide better care for refugees on Nauru and Manus Island.

Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke said Labor had no plans to shut down the detention centres.

That is despite a push from some refugee advocates within Labor calling for an end to offshore processing and boat turn backs ahead of the party's national conference.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are reporting that delegates aligned to Labor for Refugees are expected to put forward motions at the conference in Adelaide to close offshore processing centres.

Australian Associated Press