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Medical Transfer Bill To Become Law After Passing The Senate 36-34

Legislation to expedite medical evacuations of refugees and asylum seekers to Australia has passed the Senate, after yesterday passing the House of Representatives.

The medevac bill passed the Senate 36-34 on Wednesday, with a group of Labor, Greens and crossbench senators combining to ensure the passage of the bill.

On Tuesday, a historic loss was recorded for the Coalition, the first time a government had lost a vote on substantive legislation since at least 1941.

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Crossbench senators Rex Patrick, Stirling Griff, Tim Storer and Derryn Hinch backed the legislation, which narrowly passed the upper house.

Asylum-seekers look through a fence at the Manus Island detention centre in 2014. (AAP/Eoin Blackwell/via REUTERS)

The legislation strengthens provisions to bring sick and injured refugees from offshore facilities on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia.

Refugee advocates said refugees on the islands are suffering many conditions which are not able to be effectively treated there, including suspected organ failure, heart conditions, and neurological issues including seizures, epilepsy and depression.

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The government has already started claiming the bill will encourage people smugglers to again start bringing desperate asylum seekers to Australia.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the government would reopen the shuttered Christmas Island detention centre, fearing more refugee boats would start arriving.

But the legislation clearly outlines the strengthened medical evacuation provisions only apply to people currently in Australia's detention system, meaning new arrivals cannot use the laws as a so-called 'backdoor' to the Australian mainland.

The Labor opposition had been urgently attempting to bring the legislation on for debate. A clutch of crossbenchers including Rex Patrick, Stirling Griff and Tim Storer were in support of the bill, but senator Derryn Hinch had been the linchpin vote.

The Victorian senator confirmed his support on Wednesday just before the vote, guaranteeing its passage through the upper house, after earlier raising doubts over whether he would back the bill.

More to come.