| 17.02,19. 08:34 PM |
Nauru and Manus Island asylum seekers face fresh security and character assessments
Photo: Asylum seekers on Manus Island, pictured, and Nauru will undergo fresh assessments. (Supplied: Federal Government)
Hundreds of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru will undergo fresh security and character assessments as the Government prepares for an "influx" of medical transfers, Attorney-General Christian Porter says.
Federal Parliament last week passed the so-called medevac bill — with the backing of Labor, the Greens and independents — giving doctors more power to decide whether a person should be brought to Australia for medical treatment.
Mr Porter said Home Affairs officials were expecting "an influx of hundreds" as a result of the new laws, and were now carrying out checks that had not previously been done.
"The assessment that would be required to see their suitability on security and criminal grounds for entry into Australia wasn't conducted, is being conducted now," he told Insiders.
"[It] wasn't conducted previously because it was never intended that any of those people would enter Australia."
The laws allow the Home Affairs Minister to refuse a transfer if the asylum seeker has breached the ASIO Act, been given an adverse security assessment, or previously been sentenced to 12 months in prison.
Mr Porter argued the medevac bill had "radically narrowed ministerial discretion", meaning some asylum seekers who had been accused of serious crimes could end up coming to Australia.
"We already have significant red flags on these types of character issues over dozens of them," he said.
While the medevac bill only applies to those currently on Manus Island and Nauru, the Government has warned people smugglers will use the apparent "weakening" of Australia's policies to re-start their trade.
In anticipation of this, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has recorded a video — to be translated and distributed internationally — warning "no-one who attempts an illegal boat journey to Australia will ever be allowed to settle here".
The two-minute clip features Mr Morrison staring down the barrel of the camera and telling would-be asylum seekers "the Australian Government has zero tolerance for people smuggling and illegal boat travel to Australia".
"So do not waste your money or risk your life or anyone else's life for nothing," he says in the video.
Mr Morrison has sought to turn an embarrassing loss on the floor of Parliament into a new line of attack against his opponents.
Labor's decision to back the bill marked the first significant shift in the party's border protection policy in years, but Opposition Leader Bill Shorten insisted it was possible to have strong borders and humane care.
Labor to probe 'deeply concerning' Paladin contract
Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said Mr Morrison was trying to run a scare campaign and talked down the differences between the two party's policies.
"Labor has the same position on border protection as the Government," she said.
"This [bill] is about the existing cohort and giving people in our care the medical care they need."
Senator Wong issued her own warning to the Government that she would use Senate estimates this week to get to the bottom of a multi-million-dollar contract to provide security to asylum seekers on Manus Island.
According to the Australian Financial Review, the Government has awarded $423 million worth of contracts after a restricted tender to Paladin Solutions — a company registered to a beach shack on Kangaroo Island.
Senator Wong said it was "deeply concerning" that a company "with such a poor track record [and] a director under a cloud" had been given nearly half a billion dollars of taxpayers' money.
"This went to a closed tender, not an open competitive process, and when questions were asked Peter Dutton tried to wash his hands of it," she said.
Asked about the contract this morning, Mr Porter said the Government would "thoroughly investigate" claims about the company's administration and past record.
"This was the subject of a full independent Commonwealth procurement process and I'm sure that the claims are going to be very thoroughly investigated," he said.
He defended Mr Dutton and said providing services for offshore processing was "a very expensive business".
Doctors and refugee advocates claim asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru have been forced to wait dangerously long for medical transfers in the past and often need to turn to the courts to get the treatment they need.
According to the Government, about 800 asylum seekers and their family members have been brought to Australia for medical treatment in the past five years.
Almost none have returned because of either court challenges or on-going treatment.