The majority voted against a motion introduced by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young. The motion was:

"That the Senate calls on the Government to cease the current 'on water' screening and transfers of asylum seekers which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has said fall well short of Australia's international obligations and could mean that asylum seekers were returned, or refouled, to persecution."

Background to the motion

By "'on water' screening and transfers", Senator Hanson-Young is referring to two recent incidents involving asylum seeker boats intercepted by Australian Customs.

The first involved an asylum seeker boat that carried 41 asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, including four Tamils. The boat was intercepted by Australian Customs and their claims for asylum were assessed via teleconference at sea. Only one was found to have a case for seeking asylum, but the Government says they chose to return to Sri Lanka with the others after being told they would be sent to Manus Island or Nauru. All 41 people were transferred to the Sri Lankan navy and are now facing charges in a Sri Lankan Court.(Read more about the 41 people returned to Sri Lanka by Australian Customs here.)

The second incident involved a boat that carried 153 asylum seekers, including young children. The boat was also intercepted by Australian Customs but a High Court interim injunction blocked them from transferring the asylum seekers to Sri Lanka.(Read more about the High Court interim injunction here. ) The Government has undertaken to give three days' notice before returning the asylum seekers. Currently, the 153 asylum seekers are aboard a Customs vessel in an unknown location and it is unclear whether they will stay there until their case can proceed through the High Court.(Read more about the standoff in the High Court here.)

Australia's international protection obligations include the principle of non-refoulement, which ABC News explained as "UN-speak for not turning away a refugee without a fair hearing, a key tenet of the 1951 Refugee Convention".(Read the whole ABC News article here.)

Votes Not passed by a small majority

Nobody rebelled against their party.

Party Votes
Australian Greens (100% turnout) 10 Yes 0 No
Richard Di Natale Victoria Yes
Sarah Hanson-Young SA Yes
Scott Ludlam WA Yes
Christine Milne Tasmania Yes
Lee Rhiannon NSW Yes
Janet Rice Victoria Yes
Rachel Siewert WA Yes
Larissa Waters Queensland Yes
Peter Whish-Wilson Tasmania Yes
Penny Wright SA Yes
Australian Labor Party (75% turnout) 18 Yes 0 No
Carol Brown Tasmania Yes
Joe Bullock WA Yes
Doug Cameron NSW Yes
Jacinta Collins Victoria Yes
Stephen Conroy Victoria Yes
Sam Dastyari NSW Yes
Alex Gallacher SA Yes
Chris Ketter Queensland Yes
Sue Lines WA Yes
Joe Ludwig Queensland Yes
Kate Lundy ACT Yes
Anne McEwen SA Yes
Jan McLucas Queensland Yes
Claire Moore Queensland Yes
Deborah O'Neill NSW Yes
Nova Peris NT Yes
Lisa Singh Tasmania Yes
Glenn Sterle WA Yes
Catryna Bilyk Tasmania Absent
Kim Carr Victoria Absent
John Faulkner NSW Absent
Helen Polley Tasmania Absent
Anne Urquhart Tasmania Absent
Penny Wong SA Absent
Ricky Muir Victoria Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party No
Nigel Scullion NT Country Liberal Party No
John Madigan Victoria Democratic Labor Party Yes
Gavin Marshall Victoria Deputy President Absent
Bob Day SA Family First Party No
David Leyonhjelm NSW Liberal Democratic Party No
Liberal National Party (100% turnout) 0 Yes 2 No
Matthew Canavan Queensland No
James McGrath Queensland No
Liberal Party (80% turnout) 0 Yes 20 No
Christopher Back WA No
Simon Birmingham SA No
George Brandis Queensland No
David Bushby Tasmania No
Michaelia Cash WA No
Richard Colbeck Tasmania No
Mathias Cormann WA No
Sean Edwards SA No
David Fawcett SA No
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells NSW No
Mitch Fifield Victoria No
Bill Heffernan NSW No
Ian Macdonald Queensland No
Marise Payne NSW No
Linda Reynolds WA No
Anne Ruston SA No
Scott Ryan Victoria No
Zed Seselja ACT No
Arthur Sinodinos NSW No
Dean Smith WA No
Eric Abetz Tasmania Absent
Cory Bernardi SA Absent
David Johnston WA Absent
Brett Mason Queensland Absent
Michael Ronaldson Victoria Absent
National Party (100% turnout) 0 Yes 4 No
Bridget McKenzie Victoria No
Fiona Nash NSW No
Barry O'Sullivan Queensland No
John Williams NSW No
Nick Xenophon SA Nick Xenophon Team Absent
Palmer United Party (100% turnout) 0 Yes 3 No
Jacqui Lambie Tasmania No
Glenn Lazarus Queensland No
Dio Wang WA No
Stephen Parry Tasmania President Absent
Totals (82% turnout) 29 Yes – 33 No