Federal Court throws out government's Nauru medevac appeal

The full bench of the Federal Court has thrown out the Morrison government's appeal against a ruling it must consider medevac applications from people on Nauru prevented from having tele-consultations with Australian doctors.

The island of Nauru.

The island of Nauru. Source: Getty Images

The Morrison government's appeal of a Federal Court medevac ruling has been unanimously dismissed.

The decision being appealed was a requirement for the government to consider medical transfer applications from sick asylum seekers in Nauru prevented from having teleconsultations with Australian doctors.

Following the passing of the medevac laws in February, the Nauruan government passed regulations keeping refugees in Nauru from consulting with doctors registered outside of the country.

The Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC), which led the case against the government’s appeal, said the Federal Court’s unanimous ruling on Thursday highlights the government’s “bloody-mindedness”.

“In bringing this appeal, where the Morrison government has yet again tried to shut sick people out of the medevac process, it really highlights that they are motivated by cruelty and bloody-mindedness when it comes to this issue,” HRLC legal director David Burke said.

The government’s appeal stemmed from a Federal Court decision in June.

The federal government refused to consider the case of a critically ill refugee because he was prevented from speaking to his Australian-based doctors by the new Nauruan regulations.

The Medevac legislation allows the temporary transfers for treatment or assessment. So far, about 350 application have been received.
Source: AAP

But the Court ruled the man be considered for a medical transfer following advice from the doctors, prompting the government to launch an appeal.

Court documents show the refugee at the centre of the case was a 30-year-old man from Iraq who arrived in Australia without a visa in 2013.

Mr Burke said sick people should be able to submit medevac applications when there is a clear need for medical treatment.

“Every day in Australian hospitals, surgeons and specialists give advice about the treatment patients need based on medical records and test results. The applications are entirely in line with Australian medical standards,” he said.

“There are women and men who have spent more than six years languishing in offshore detention without access to proper medical care.

“Rather than fighting tooth and nail to prevent sick people even submitting medevac applications, the Morrison Government should be finding a solution to this humanitarian crisis.”

It comes as the Senate considers a coalition proposal to repeal the medevac laws.

The proposal needs the support of Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie, who has said she will support the repeal on one condition.

That condition has not been revealed, but she said has described it as a "sensible, reasonable proposition" that was developed after extensive consultation.

Published 28 November 2019 at 8:46pm
By Evan Young