Scott Morrison has vented his anger about having to reopen the Christmas Island detention centre in response to new laws governing the medical treatment of asylum seekers.
The prime minister has also insisted his repeated warnings of rapists and murderers coming to Australia as a consequence of the changes will not derail a refugee resettlement deal with the United States.
“I actually met with our ambassador yesterday and the US deal is fine,” he told reporters in North Queensland on Friday.
“We are just telling the truth about what’s going on with all that.”
There are widespread fears the Australian government’s rhetoric about an influx of dangerous criminals could imperil the people-swap deal with the US, which still has more than 700 places to fill.
US President Donald Trump has previously described the Obama-era deal as “rotten” and made it abundantly clear he resents taking in the refugees.
After inspecting Queensland cattle farms ravaged by severe floods and winds, Mr Morrison fumed about having to spend $1.4 billion over the next four years reopening the mothballed centre on Christmas Island.
“The fact that I have to do it now because the parliament made a stupid decision makes me pretty angry,” he told reporters.
“I want to invest that money here, not on a detention centre that I now have to open because of people who made a very bad decision.”
Labor has argued reopening Christmas Island is a panicked response which sends the wrong signal to people smugglers.
The medevac policy will only apply to asylum seekers and refugees who are already on Manus Island and Nauru.
Any new asylum-seeker arrivals will not have access and the government’s boat turn-back policy also maintains bipartisan support.
Opposition frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the changes would make “zero” difference to border security.
“There hasn’t been one inch of movement when it comes to border protection policy,” he told Sky News.
“All that happened this week was an acknowledgement that you can be tough on people smugglers without being weak on humanity.”
Earlier, Mr Morrison said he would rather “take the hit” of a historic defeat in federal parliament, rather than compromise on medical treatment for asylum seekers.
The prime minister insisted he had been determined to “stick to his guns” rather than negotiate with Labor and the crossbench over the medical evacuation changes, which were legislated against his wishes this week.
“Never was I going to cross that red line,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
The government claims giving doctors a greater say in medical evacuations from Manus Island and Nauru will restart the people-smuggling trade.
Mr Morrison has also warned curtailing the minister’s power to block medical transfers will give rapists and murderers free passage into Australia.
But Labor insists there are still appropriate safeguards in place to stop criminals entering the country.
Around 900 asylum seekers had already been transferred to Australia for medical treatment under the old laws.
Asked whether Labor would make any more changes to its border security platform before the May election, Mr Albanese replied: “No.”
“Our position is very clear and what’s more these are positions that have been unanimously adopted by the ALP national conference, not just the caucus,” he said.