Less than 10 children left on Nauru: PM

Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison

Less than 10 children remain on Nauru and that number will continue to drop before the end of the year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.

A push to urgently transfer sick asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia has been put off until next year.

But Mr Morrison denies it was to save the federal government from a humiliating parliamentary defeat - the first of its kind since 1929.

"Labor and a lot of people down here (in Canberra) were saying that," the prime minister told the Nine Network on Friday.

"The government confidently maintained its position in the House of Representatives, as we did for the last three months."

Mr Morrison said there would be "about six" children left on Nauru in coming weeks and people have been removed from detention when medical issues arose.

"All the children that have had medical-related issues for transfers have been transferred," he said.

"In some places people are transferred to Taiwan or Port Moresby for medical treatment and they receive it."

But Independent Sydney MP Kerryn Phelps - who has been driving the new laws - is determined for them to be dealt with when parliament resumes next year.

"The plan is for the first day back in February, for this to be dealt with," Dr Phelps told Sky News on Thursday.

"If we have to wait until February at least there is, I believe, a light at the end of the tunnel."

Mr Morrison on Thursday vowed to use any tactic necessary to stop the legislation to allow critically ill refugees to be flown to Australia for medical treatment on the advice of two doctors.

He accused Labor and the Greens of playing political games instead of actually caring about the refugees.

"I will do everything in my power to ensure that these suggested changes that would undermine our border protection laws never see the light of day," he told reporters.

Support from the Greens, Labor and crossbenchers secured its passage the Senate, but not in time to return to the House of Representatives for approval.

After running down the clock on the refugee bill, the government avoided the first loss of its kind since 1929.

Dr Phelps said the coalition had been spreading misinformation about her bill.

Australia's border protection policies will not be affected by the changes, because a minister will still able to stop the temporary transfers on national security or character grounds, she said.

Australian Associated Press