Jacqui Lambie accuses Scott Morrison of being intimidating, bullish during New Zealand refugee deal talks

Independent Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie has accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of being “intimidating” and “bullish” during negotiations in 2019 to resettle hundreds of refugees in New Zealand.

Senator Lambie told Channel Nine she was told if she spoke about the deal before it was announced it would “kill it” and she was told she could face jail time if she revealed any of the details.

“So for the sake of humanity, I had no other choice but to shut up anyway to make sure that job was done,” she said.

New Zealand will resettle 150 refugees stuck in Australia’s offshore detention system per year for three years, after a deal that was first made nine years ago was finalised. 

The deal was originally struck by former prime minsters Julia Gillard and John Key in 2013, but the Coalition was hesitant to follow through with it because it was concerned refugees who went to New Zealand could try to travel back to Australia and settle here permanently.

Senator Lambie rejected that the 2019 talks followed the way any other national security briefing would go, saying Mr Morrison’s warning felt like “more of a threat”.

“There was no need to do that because I already new, quite clearly, if anything was said that deal would be off and all those people would be sitting on Nauru,” she said.

“I was in the room that day and I can tell you now what was said was intimidating.

“I spent 10 years in the Army. It takes a lot to intimidate me.

Senator Lambie brokered the deal in exchange for her support to repeal the so-called “medevac laws”, which was passed against the government’s will in the last sitting week of 2018.

The laws gave doctors more power to decide whether asylum seekers should come to Australia for medical treatment.

Senator Lambie held the crucial vote to repeal the laws and at the time was accused of reaching a secret deal with the government for her support.

“The decision to repeal Australia’s medevac laws was the hardest I’ve ever had to make in my political career,” she said.

“In the end I decided to support it. Not for nothing. I did it because I thought, on balance, that medevac gave me leverage to get people out of offshore detention, to let them move on with their lives after years in limbo.

Senator Lambie said Scott Morrison was “bullish” during talks about the deal in 2019.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

“I agreed to repeal medevac in exchange for an end to offshore detention. An end which, when secured, would mean we wouldn’t have a need for medevac.

“I ended up with an agreement with the government I couldn’t disclose. For years I help up my end of the agreement.  Yesterday, the government held up their end.”

The senator said COVID-19 and other delays meant it took longer than she wanted it to, but she was grateful the deal had now been reached.

In 2020 she warned Mr Morrison she would reveal the details of the deal if he did not by the end of that year.

In a Twitter post she said she got “close” to revealing the details then, “but in the end I just knew if I was one of them and knew what was at stake, I’d want Lambie to hold the line”.


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