Historic defeat: Government loses vote on border protection laws

The increase of support for Mr Morrison personally has not translated to the Coalition at large

The future of the Coalition's hold on power is at risk with the Federal Government becoming the first to lose a vote on its own legislation in nearly 80 years.

Both major parties have long backed tight border protection, looking to keep asylum seekers that arrive by boat out of the country, but Labor has indicated it might back the "Medivac" bill, which would land an embarrassing defeat of the government in parliament.

It released legal advice suggesting the bill is unconstitutional because the changes require spending of taxpayer dollars, to appoint a medical panel to oversee the transfers.

The bill will now return to the Senate before it becomes law.

The opposition Labor Party and a group of independent MPs supported the legislation.

The government is increasingly powerless to stop the bill passing through parliament.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is already promising "contingency" measures to ensure the new laws don't undermine Operation Sovereign Borders.

Australia's conservative government is facing a huge electoral defeat as it heads into the final sitting of parliament ahead of a national election expected in May, a widely watched poll found on Monday.

'The people of Australia will remember this day and know that this is now on your head - leader of the opposition'.

"Australia can not trust Bill Shorten to make Australia stronger", the prime minister said.

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"The Labor Party have failed to learn their lessons of failure when they had responsibility for border protection in this country", an angry Mr Morrison told reporters. They have learned nothing from their past failures and can not be trusted to keep our borders and Australia strong. "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".

"Under Labor, it's get on a boat, get to Nauru, get sick and get to Australia".

His explosive comments come less than three months out from the federal election.

Despite a bruising and highly personal lobbying effort, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was defeated by MPs who insisted refugees held in offshore facilities have the right to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment.

Under the negotiated amendments, the Home Affairs minister will have 72 hours to make a decision on whether to agree to a medical transfer. Labor changed its proposed laws to explicitly say a panel of doctors judging medical transfers would not be paid.

A medical panel of two doctors would assess requests for medical transfers of people now on Manus Island and Nauru, but not new arrivals.

The panel won't be paid, a move created to remove doubts over whether the bill was unconstitutional.

The panel can then reassess the reasoning before choosing whether to make a second recommendation for transfer.

It also has at least one person nominated by each of the Australian Medical Association, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Royal Australasian College of Physicians and one with expertise in pediatric health.

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