Template Letter #2: Don't repeal Refugee MedEvac Law
Updated: Jul 11, 2019
In the lead up to the May 2019 Federal election, the Federal Parliament was a bevvy of activity, as the cross-benches in both the Upper and Lower Houses decided to use their unexpected leverage with both major parties to push for new laws on critical issues such as refugee welfare and anti-corruption.
One major outcome of the cross-bench's efforts was the enactment of the so-called Refugee MedEvac Bill, which was designed to depoliticise decisions to move people from Nauru and Manus for medical treatment by relying on the medical advice of a panel of doctors, rather than bureaucrats.
Australia has a duty of care to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees which have been put in detention by our Government have access to proper medical care.
Since the MedEvac Law was enacted in February 2019, the Morrison Government has tried to scaremonger that it would result in a floodgate of new boat arrivals and/or allow in criminals, but this has been proven untrue. In late June, activists reported that medical transfer requests from 50 refugees and asylum seekers were being reviewed, disputing a spurious claim by Peter Dutton's that 250 cases were in the queue.
The passage of the MedEvac Law was an embarrassing political failure for the Morrison Government as it demonstrated that the Government was unable to control the two Houses of Parliament, which were able to pass the law without its support. The sting of that defeat has not been forgotten - within days of re-election, the Morrison Government was already talking about repealing the law, despite scraping through the election with only a one-seat majority in the Lower House and a minority in the Senate.
"The MedEvac Repeal Bill will proceed to an inquiry by the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Legislative Committee, which will report back to Parliament on 18 October. Members of the public can make submissions to the inquiry until 16 August 2019"
In the very first sitting of Parliament, on 4 July Peter Dutton introduced the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019 ("MedEvac Repeal Bill"). The repeal legislation will now proceed to an inquiry by the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Legislative Committee, which will report back to Parliament on 18 October. Members of the public can make submissions to the inquiry until 16 August.
It is crucial that we use this time to advocate in against repealing the MedEvac Law. The Government has the numbers to pass the repeal in the Lower House. However, in the Senate, Labor, the Greens and the Centre Alliance have made clear that they do not support the repeal. One Nation and the Australian Conservatives have indicated they support repeal.
This means that Senator Jacqui Lambie in the Senate will be the key cross-bench vote that the Government will need to repeal the law. We all need to write to Senator Lambie urgently to implore her not to support the Bill. We also need to make submissions to the Senate inquiry, to show that ordinary Australians want the MedEvac Law to remain. Its time for our voices to be heard - don't be silent on this critical issue.