Immigration

Government's bid to repeal Medevac legislation passes first hurdle

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The Morrison government's plan to repeal asylum seeker medical transfer laws has passed the lower house, but won't be considered by the Senate for months.

The government's bid to reverse laws giving doctors more say in medical transfers of asylum seekers in offshore detention has cleared the lower house. 

The House of Representatives voted in favour of the Medevac repeal bill after sometimes heated debate spanning three days. 

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Watch: Centre Alliance MP, Rebekha Sharkie, blasts government's medivac repeal bill.
Watch: Centre Alliance MP, Rebekha Sharkie, blasts government's medivac repeal bill.

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie told the chamber that repealing the laws would be a "wicked thing" and appealed to her Christian colleagues to read a section of the Bible before voting for it. 

Ms Sharkie drew on her Christian faith during a debate about the government's Medevac repeal bill on Wednesday in a passionate defence of the laws that were passed in February.

"Matthew 25 makes it very clear - Christians should see everyone as Christ in the flesh. And in the New Testament, stranger and neighbour are in fact synonymous.

"The golden rule of love your neighbour as yourself refers not just to the people you know, your neighbours, but also to those you do not know." 

Centre Alliance Rebekha Sharkie has encouraged MPs to read a section of the bible before voting on the Medevac repeal bill.
Centre Alliance Rebekha Sharkie has encouraged MPs to read a section of the bible before voting on the Medevac repeal bill.
AAP

She said repealing the legislation which gives doctors more say over the transfer of sick asylum seekers held on Manus and Nauru to mainland Australia would cause much harm. 

"Needless harm, unnecessary harm. It is quite simply a wicked thing that we are doing in this place. It is unnecessary." 

The government used its majority in the House of Representatives to reverse the Medevac changes, but it faces a tougher test in the Senate.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton speaks during Question Time
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had warned the Medevac laws would lead to an influx of transfers.
AAP

But the Senate will not consider it until after a parliamentary committee examines it and reports back in October. 

As of June, 31 asylum seekers or refugees had been transferred for medical treatment under the new laws, the majority for serious mental health issues.

The government rejected another nine cases recommended by doctors. 

Lambie holds a pivotal vote

Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie is likely to hold the pivotal vote when the repeal legislation reaches the Senate and is not revealing how she intends to vote. 

Senator Lambie has formed a loose alliance with the Centre Alliance minor party - which opposes repealing the laws - but is not bound to side with them.

entre Alliance senators Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff and independent Senator Jacqui Lambie (centre) celebrate the end of the first sitting of Parliament.
Senator Jacqui Lambie has a loose alliance with Centre Alliance senators Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff, but is not bound to vote with them.
AAP

Labor's attempted amendments to the repeal - which condemned Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton for inaccurately describing the medical transfer process - were voted down in the lower house on Wednesday night.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus shared a story of an asylum seeker family who were first sent to Nauru in 2014.

The family included a mother, her young son, an older son and his wife.

In 2018 and after four years in detention the older son took his life, causing a spiral in the mental health of his family members.

Lawyers for the family contacted Mr Dutton five times without reply, asking for her clients to be evacuated to undergo medical treatment.

"It should not take many months, a suicide, multiple suicide attempts, countless medical reports and an application to the Federal Court of Australia for vulnerable people in Australia's care to receive urgent medical assistance," Mr Dreyfus said during debate on the bill.

"The solicitor, the judge and the doctors were doing their job. The medevac laws merely require this callous and incompetent minister to do his."

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