Scott Morrison suffers historic defeat. So who won?

  • Scott Morrison suffers historic defeat. So who won?

Scott Morrison suffers historic defeat. So who won?

The government has suffered a historic defeat after an amended bill on the medical transfer of asylum seekers passed 75-74 in the House of Representatives.

But Labor and the crossbench pressed on, with six of the seven crossbenchers backing the ALP amendment to the bill that had come from the Senate.

But Labor changed their proposed laws to explicitly say a panel of doctors judging medical transfers would not be paid, getting around the constitutional issue.

The Labor leader, Bill Shorten, said ensuring that people in offshore detention had access to proper medical treatment was a test of national character, not a sign of weakness.

The doctors were due to be paid under the original proposal - but Labor's late change to exclude remuneration means the bill can not be rejected on constitutional grounds.

After tonight's historic loss on the floor of Parliament, Mr Morrison said Opposition leader Bill Shorten did not have the "mettle" to protect Australia's borders.

The Senate will look at some legislation dealing with recommendations from the royal commission, while the lower house will consider laws making it compulsory for candidates to reveal if they are eligible to sit in parliament.

"He (Bill Shorten) can not be trusted on our borders and Australia can not trust Bill Shorten on border protection", he said. "My job now is to work with our border protection and security agencies to do everything in my power to mitigate the damaging impact of what Labor have done tonight".

"I believe we can keep our borders secure, we can uphold our national security, but still treat people humanely", he said. He said he had no intention of going to the polls early, and the election would be in May.

Labor's Anthony Albanese (left) speaks to cross bench MP Kerryn Phelps during debate.

Leader of the House Christopher Pyne declared Labor and the crossbenchers "don't care about the Australian constitution".

And angry Mr Morrison told Mr Shorten Labor was trying to "kid themselves" that the changes were being made in the name of humanitarianism.

It also limits the new procedures governing medical transfers to the cohort already on Nauru and Manus Island.

Scott Morrison started the week with a speech on security, but on Tuesday he started the parliamentary year with a psalm.

The Home Affairs minister would have 72 hours to make a decision on whether to agree to a medical transfer.

Morrison lost his parliamentary majority a year ago and has been relying on cross-benchers to keep control of the lower House of Representatives.

The doctors were due to be paid under the original proposal - but Labor's late change to exclude remuneration means the bill can not be rejected on constitutional grounds.