Friday, 22 February, 2019

Derryn Hinch to vote with Labor and pass refugee medical transfer bill

Doctors visited Parliament House to urge politicians to back a bill to make it easier for critically ill asylum seekers to be transferred to Australia Australian government suffers historic defeat over refugee medical bill
Johnnie Parks | 13 February, 2019, 15:23

The Opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) joined forces with the Greens and independent Members of Parliament (MPs) to pass the medical evacuations bill by 75 votes to the governing Liberal-National Party coalition (LNP)'s 74.

Australia's conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Tuesday that the detention facility in the Australian external territory in the Indian Ocean his government worked hard to shut down would be reopened to accommodate potential new arrivals and detainees, who might be transferred from the Nauru and Manus Island offshore migrant detention camps.

Morrison said he would repeal the "foolish law" if his government were re-elected. He accused Labor leader Bill Shorten of ignoring security advice on the controversial bill.

Amendments to the Migration Act have passed Australia's House of Representatives which could make it easier for sick refugees detained on Manus Island and Nauru to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment.

Mr Porter said a refugee on Manus Island was facing sex abuse charges and someone on Nauru had been charged with indecently assaulting a child.

The push to speed up medical evacuations was first made by independent MP Kerryn Phelps a year ago after she won the Liberal Party stronghold of Wentworth when former PM Malcolm Turnbull was ousted in a party coup.

The Morrison government has beefed up its border protection measures and will reopen the Christmas Island detention centre in anticipation of what it claims will be a resumption of the people smuggling trade.

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"If they don't come, it will be because of the work and the decisions we are now taking and the actions we are putting in place", Morrison said.

"Last night was not about an election - last night was about the simple proposition that Australia is strong enough to treat people humanely", he told reporters at Parliament House.

Mr Shorten dismissed that claim and argued the bill simply allowed for better medical care for asylum seekers who needed help in Australia.

"This is merely codifying something that the government itself says is happening now".

Major changes to Australia's health system would be led by a new, independent expert commission under a federal Labor government, making reforms harder to unpick.

Speaking before the vote, Morrison said that the changes would encourage people-smugglers and provoke a new flow of arrivals.

The changes included a provision that only the 1,000 asylum seekers now held on Nauru and Papua New Guinea and not any future arrivals would be considered for medical evacuation under the new regime.

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