Asked if it was a guarantee, Mr Frydenberg told the ABC’s Insiders program it was ultimately a decision for the Prime Minister and “that is what his stated public intention has been to date”.
The government spent the final day of parliament last week dragging out debate in the Senate. By the time the bill passed the Senate late on Thursday afternoon, the House of Representatives was adjourning for the year so it avoided a vote on legislation to make it easier for medical transfers of children and sick asylum seekers to Australia.
With Parliament due to resume on February 12, the government is set to be tested by Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers who have teamed up on a bill which would transfer asylum seekers on Nauru on the recommendation of two doctors with the minister having the final say.
It is not clear the minority government will be deterred by the prospect of losing a parliamentary vote, because some Coalition ministers are girding for a fight over border protection and national security in the new year to try to portray Labor leader Bill Shorten as soft on asylum seekers and terrorists.
Mr Morrison refused to support the asylum seeker bill, saying it amounted to a weakening of border protection policy and would encourage the people smugglers to start up again.
Mr Frydenberg said on Sunday the sick kids on Nauru issue was a distraction and the crossbench bill would allow some of the 1000 asylum seeker males on Nauru, who are largely Iranian, to be transferred.
“We have to have a strong deterrent in place,” Mr Frydenberg said.
Separately, Labor announced on the weekend it would scrap the government’s planned outsourcing of the visa processing system to the private sector, potentially worth more than $3 billion to the winning business tenderer.
The Australian Financial Review reported last week that Labor was preparing for a potential early March election.
Another factor Mr Morrison has to consider is the NSW state election on March 23.
Going to the polls before then has pros and cons. The first state or federal Coalition government to go to the polls risks copping the anger of frustrated voters. However, facing the voters at a second election in the space of two months would also bring the challenge of confronting voters who are fed up with elections.
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull last week revealed he was planning a March 2019 federal election, urging Scott Morrison to go to the polls soon after the summer break to help NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s re-election hopes.
Mr Frydenberg is keen to deliver his first budget as Treasurer, to promote the Coalition’s economic and fiscal credentials against Labor.
Despite September quarter GDP growth falling to a subdued 0.3 per cent, Mr Frydenberg pointed to annual economic growth of 2.8 per cent being ahead of G7 economies except the United States and higher than Labor’s last year in government in 2013.