Refugee 'medivac bill' passes Australia's lower house

Feb 15, 2019, 02:00
Refugee 'medivac bill' passes Australia's lower house

Senator Hinch backed the bill in the Senate late past year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a security committee of his cabinet agreed to reopen the camp on Wednesday on the advice of senior security officials.

The ALP and key crossbench and independent MPs and Senators came together to vote the bill through, delivering a historic blow for the government on the eve of an election.

The Senate will look at some legislation dealing with recommendations from the royal commission, while the lower house will consider laws making it compulsory for candidates to reveal if they are eligible to sit in parliament.

The new regime will allow any two "treating doctors" - they can be outside the processing centre - to make a request to the Home Affairs Department Secretary to medically evacuate a person to Australia for medical or psychiatric assessment or treatment. "Rape survivors have to had to have traumatic late term abortions due to government blocks", she said.

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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.

"We are doing whatever it takes to prevent this bill from becoming law and you will of course see how these processes are going to evolve over the next 24 to 48 hours", he said.

Medical evacuations have become a loophole in Australia's policy of exiling asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

However, refugee advocates have attacked the current system for being too opaque, with decisions on transfers taking too long, in some cases months, despite people requiring urgent medical attention.

In 2010, a boat of 90 asylum seekers - mostly from Iraq and Iran - sank off the island, killing 50 people on board.

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But Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says Labor is wrong and criminals are already using the law changes in their marketing.

"There's no sense in being big-hearted - in getting people out of detention, including children on Nauru - only to find that a boat turns up the next day to refill the places with new arrivals", he told Sky News.

"There is no question that people smugglers will be hearing very clearly that the policy in Australia has changed", Dutton said.

Christmas island, an Australian territory located on 380 km from Indonesia's Java island, was until 2012 the point of arrival of boats of undocumented migrants trying to seek asylum in the Oceanic country. "This puts Australia back on the map for people smugglers and Bill Shorten has that on his shoulders".

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