Scott Morrison suffers historic defeat as border protection election looms

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The Australian government has lost control of the parliament for the first time in nearly a century, losing a major vote on a bill to help evacuate critically ill refugees from offshore processing centers.

The contest will play out differently in different seats and demographics across the country, but Morrison has made it clear that any new boat arrival "is on Bill Shorten and Labor's head".

His government, he said, was adopting "100%" of a series of recommendations from the country's security services to further tighten efforts to prevent the arrival of migrants and asylum-seekers by sea.

Yes, the government is wielding its reluctance to provide Australian medical care, and its use of harsh facilities like Christmas Island, as an apparent weapon against asylum seekers.

Australia has come under fire by the United Nations and human rights organizations for allowing asylum-seekers to languish for years on the Pacific island under inhumane conditions.

A dozen refugees have already died in the Manus and Nauru camps and a number have attempted suicide, including children.

Labor representatives said it was about "doing the right thing", and the vote provoked cheers from asylum-seeker activists in parliament's public gallery.

Labor had of its 69 members as well as support from Greens MP Adam Bandt and independents Julia Banks, Cathy McGowan, Kerryn Phelps, Rebekha Sharkie and Andrew Wilkie.

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No matter the detail of the medical evacuation Bill passed by Parliament tonight, the Labor Party can never win a political fight on border security.

"He's desperate for one to arrive", she said, describing his behaviour as "pathetic, cruel and dangerous".

The Prime Minister fears the changes will restart the people-smuggling trade and trigger an influx of asylum-seeker boats.

Even still, Mr Shorten believes the "incompetent and divided" Morrison government should call an election as soon as possible.

His Liberal party is keen to deliver a surplus budget before the election to underpin its claim to be the best custodians of Australia's finances.

Since then, the government had lurched from crisis to crisis, and a disastrous showing in elections in Victoria state intensified expectations it is heading for defeat in May.

The facility on Christmas Island, which sits in the Indian Ocean to the south of the Indonesian island of Java, once held thousands of people and was the scene of violent protests by detainees complaining of harsh conditions. A resident of the center, Leo Jai, described it as a "concentration camp" in a VICE column previous year, writing that the detainees were "locked down in cramped compounds of 50 people" and were allowed only two hours out of their cells a day.