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Australian ruling party defeated in Parliament on refugees

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s ruling party has suffered a rare defeat in Parliament after the opposition joined minor parties and independent lawmakers in passing a bill that would give sick asylum seekers easier access to mainland hospitals.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative government argues that the bill, passed 75 to 74 by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, will undermine Australia’s tough refugee policy. The policy banishes asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australia by boat to camps on the Pacific island nations of Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

The bill would allow doctors instead of bureaucrats to decide which asylum seekers in the camps can fly to Australia for medical treatment. It is likely to be made law by the Senate as early as Wednesday.

The Associated Press