You may have heard in the news (or maybe not) that the coalition wants to repeal the ‘Medevac bill’. It was reported that last month (25thJuly), the ‘motion to repeal the bill passed the House of Representatives’. The Home Affairs Minister claims that the bill will encourage more refugees and asylum seekers to head towards our shores. Dutton also claimed that refugees who self harm do so to get access to the bill and the possibility to be transferred into Australia.
In order for the bill to be repealed, the motion to repeal now needs to pass in the senate. The motion to be repealed will not be presented to the senate before October of 2019.
How the bill came to pass
The bill is also known as the Home Affair Legislation Amendment Bill and was passed in 2018 when the Greens, Labor and the crossbench voted in support of the bill. The bill passed by 75 to 74 votes.
The passing of the bill at such odds is considered historical, as it has been over 75 years that a bill has passed despite the desire of the government in power. It had political analysts all excited that government had lost its hold on parliament and perhaps the nation – but in August of 2019, and after that historic (and mindboggling) election win in May, we know that that is not the case (unfortunately).
The bill was introduced to parliament by former MP Kerryn Phelps, and has been intent on clamping back against Dutton’s claims whenever she gets the chance.
How the bill works
The bill empowers doctors based in Manus and Nauru, allowing them to make assessments on detainees and request an urgent transfer of a refugee to Australia for medical treatment.
Previously, doctors were able to make the recommendation that a detainee needed to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment, but that recommendation would then need to be approved by government officials. The Guardian reported that the wait could sometimes take up to four years. Under the new bill, the Ministerfor Immigration can refuse a transfer and must do so within 72 hours of the request. If the minister wants to refuse the transfer on medical grounds, he/she needs to consult the Independent Health Advice Panel.
What is motivating the repeal
There is a lot of talk that the Medevac is costly to the government. But the desire to repeal the bill totally falls in line with everything Dutton stands for. Since it has been reopened, Christmas Island has cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars, and there is no one there yet. And of course, by the government, I mean the taxpayer.
It is fair to say that the incentive to repeal aligns with the ongoing fear mongering campaign that the Liberal Party has gone to great lengths to perfect. In fact, it has become a bit of an art that all right wing governments or major governmental parties are eager to participate in. With the separation of Mexican children and their parents at the U.S border and the sheer brutality of it (with the international community doing pretty much nothing), it comes as no surprise that Dutton can waltz around parliament with little to no compassion for the people sent to rot away in Manus and Nauru.
The fear mongering campaign has its benefits. It garners the votes of those inclined to be fear mongered. Fear mongering in general is a great business, as it allows those using it to weasel their way out of having to do work and implement policies that better the society. The return on investment comes when after failing to implement policies and work for their constituents, those responsible get to blame folks who are destitute for their shortcomings rather than be faced with the fact that they are incompetent.
If you want to get involved, here are few things that you can do:
- Learn more about the detention centres and the medevac legislation
- Volunteer with organisations that provide assistance to refugees and asylum seekers (a great organisation is the Refugee Advice and Casework Services or RACS)
- Spread the word about what is going on
- Contact your local MP, voice your opinion, and request that he/she votes against the repeal in the Senate.
Over the course of the next few months, in the lead up to October, I will be learning as much as I can about the state of affairs of Manus and Nauru in general and the Medevac bill and other related issues. If this topic interests you and you’re keen to make a positive impact, watch this space. Moreover, sign up for the newsletter so the articles drop right into your inbox.