Australia

'We speak for the quiet Australians': Medevac supporters hold overnight vigil

Medevac supporters held a vigil outside Parliament House in Canberra. Source: Rural Australians for Refugees

Supporters of the medevac legislation have travelled to Canberra to hold an overnight vigil outside Parliament House ahead of Senators returning.

Medevac supporters have braved a cold Canberra night holding a vigil outside Parliament House to urge the Federal government not to overturn refugee medical transfer laws.

The medevac legislation allows refugees in offshore detention centres to be transferred for medical treatment or assessment under doctor referrals. 

But the Federal government is attempting to repeal the legislation arguing it poses a threat to border protection and national security.

Rural Australians for Refugees President Louise Redmond told SBS News people had travelled from across regional Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia to bring attention to their cause.

Rural Australians for Refugees President Louise Redmond.
Rural Australians for Refugees President Louise Redmond.
SBS News

“We believe that we speak for the quiet Australians."

“The government has this idea that it is the inner city latte sipping Greenies – who have these kinds of attitudes.

"But we’re people from regional and rural Australia.”

Over the weekend medevac supporters held rallies in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns and Armidale against the Morrison government's push to repeal the legislation.

"To sleep out here in the cold and damp last night is our small way of saying we as Australians do not accept this," Ms Redmond said.

The repeal attempt could go to a vote in the Senate this week during an upper house only sitting week – however, the bill is not yet listed for debate.

Its future lies with Senator Jacqui Lambie with the crossbencher holding the deciding vote on whether the laws are repealed.

Former independent MP for the Victorian seat of Indi Cathy McGowan, who helped get the laws passed in the last Parliament, attended the Canberra vigil.

Former independent MP for Indi Cathy McGowan.
Former independent MP for Indi Cathy McGowan.
SBS News

“There is a movement right across Australia that regardless of what we’re doing with border security we have got to treat sick people – and look after them,” she told SBS News.

“We don’t want people dying in detention – we don’t want people dying at sea and we want to be a nation that looks after our sick people.”

There have been 135 people held in offshore detention brought to Australia for medical treatment since March under the medical transfer laws. Of this group, 13 medical-transferred detainees have been hospitalised.

Meanwhile, five people transferred have refused treatment and a further 43 have refused chest X-rays and pathology tests.

The medevac supporters are urging the Federal government not to repeal the medical transfer laws.
The medevac supporters are urging the Federal government not to repeal the medical transfer laws.
Rural Australians for Refugees

Last month Senate Estimates also heard six people had been transferred under the legislation despite security concerns and another two had been approved for transfer despite similar character concerns.

Labor’s Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said not listing the repeal push for debate means the Morrison government “doesn’t seem confident” of having the numbers to pass it.

“This Government seems determined to somehow and for some reason … stop a law that allows sick people getting the health care they need,” she said.

“What you are doing today is saying ... we are going to stand here for people who can’t stand here themselves."

Supporters of the medevac laws said keeping them in place is a matter of 'humanity'.
Supporters of the medevac laws said keeping them in place is a matter of 'humanity'.
SBS News

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has repeatedly insisted the medevac laws are a con, raising border protection and national security concerns.

“Six people have already come under Labor’s medevac laws that should not have come,” he told reporters last month.

“We want to abolish these laws as quickly as possible.”

Eleven peak medical body’s representing tens of thousands of clinicians have lobbied for the medevac legislation to remain in place.

But a Senate Committee backed the push to scrap the laws, despite the majority of evidence submitted to its inquiry backing the process.

The government-dominated committee handed down its report, finding the laws contained “significant flaws”.

This included the lack of a process to return refugees to once they’ve recovered and short time frames to assess security and character concerns.

With AAP.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch