This week, the Australian senate continues discussions to vote on the repeal of the medevac bill.
In my previous article on Medevac, I explained what the bill achieves – essentially, it allows medical doctors to decide to transfer refugees and asylum seekers from offshore detention centres (Manus and Nauru) into Australia for medical treatment.
Before the bill was passed, bureaucrats and politicians had the ability to deny the requests of doctors to transfer patients across – i.e. individuals with no medical expertise had the final say on medical matters.
The result has often been catastrophic. In 2017, the Guardian reported on an asylum seeker that requested medical assistance more than 10 times in the period of two months. Another asylum seeker was reportedly neglected by medical professionals on the island and explicitly by the IHMS – he died 4 days after a doctor allegedly told him he wasn’t unwell.
Moreover, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) made a submission to the IHMS into ‘serious allegations of abuse, self-harm and neglect of asylum seekers in relation to the Nauru Regional Centre, and any like allegations in relation to the Manus Regional Processing Centre’. The submission documents the harrowing accounts of how asylum seekers requiring medical attention on Nauru and Manus Island are often neglected or treated with standards much lower than anywhere in Australia. Doctor’s requests for patient transfer into Australia were regularly denied or ignored, sometimes having fatal results.
The Medevac bill allows doctors to make recommendation for transfer on medical grounds. The bill still allows the minister to review and refuse transfers on national security grounds, but within a 72-hour timeframe.
Last week, it was reported that Jacqui Lambie made a statement that she will support the government and vote for the repeal of the medevac bill, if the government meets a non-negotiable condition that she has not publically announced. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Lambie also urged the government to ‘revive the option of a third-country resettlement deal with New Zealand to shift up to 150 off Nauru and Papua New Guinea.’
As it stands, the repeal still relies on Lambie’s vote and it is highly likely that a vote will be taken this week.
There’s not telling which way it will go at this stage –or what Lambie’s condition is. If I were to take her previous positions on Muslims into account, I wouldn’t be left with too much hope for the outcome.
All we can do is to continue raise awareness about the destitute living conditions in the offshore detention centres and make sure our elected officials know we want them to vote against the repeal.