The $1.4b problem with photo of PM
The drama earlier this year over the need to re-open the Christmas Island detention centre has been revealed as a $1.4 billion joke on voters by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Suddenly, the revival of the centre will not be needed.
The emergency, the fleets of asylum seekers, and the huge bill attached, have disappeared.
The Indian Ocean holding facility for asylum-seeking boat arrivals will have had $185 million spent on it, but that's it. It now will be closed again.
And that spending largely was so Mr Morrison could in March fly to the island, Australia's most remote territory, for a press conference in which he thundered warnings of imminent arrivals of boat people.
This, the Government argued, was a consequence of parliament passing legislation to facilitate medical transfers of severely ill asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru.
The political theme from the Prime Minister was that this would encourage more attempts by asylum seekers to set out for Australia, and that Labor was to blame.
The Government had been told by security agencies it had to get the detention facility back in operation, and that this would cost $1.4 billion.
"That was not our suggestion, that was the recommendation of the Department of Home Affairs that this is what was necessary to address what occurred in the parliament by the Labor Party voting to weaken our borders," Mr Morrison said.
But Mr Morrison will save $1 billion shutting down the Christmas Island immigration detention if he wins the May election, despite only reopening it months ago.
The prime minister promised to spend $1.4 billion reopening the mothballed facility after laws passed federal parliament against his will, making it easier for sick refugees to seek medical transfers.
However, this price tag has been slashed to just $185.2 million in Tuesday's federal budget.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the Coalition was counting on winning the election and shutting the centre to save $1.2 billion.
"Should we be successful we will reverse that legislation, which means we will be able to close Christmas Island again, as we have closed Christmas Island before," Mr Cormann told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
The sizeable reduction in spending will depend on the Coalition government winning the upcoming election, convincing parliament to repeal the medical evacuation laws, and closing Christmas Island by July 1.
The centre will then be returned to a so-called contingency setting, with the bulk of the budgeted money to be spent on sending any asylum seekers on Christmas Island back to Manus Island and Nauru.
Mr Morrison toured Christmas Island in March to announce it would reopen to handle medical transfers from detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, and any future asylum-seeker boat arrivals.