Medical panels to decide if asylum seekers come to Australia
Following votes in the House of Representatives and the Senate, medical panels will now determine whether or not asylum seekers will be medically evacuated on Nauru.
The result represents the first time that a government has lost a vote over legislation on the floor of the House of Representatives since 1929. However, the Morrison government survived, as both the government and the opposition interpreted the event as not being tantamount to a vote of no confidence.
Nonetheless, the Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke told reporters on Tuesday that he would not rule out a vote of no confidence should the opportunity present itself.
The Bill sets out the conditions under which asylum seekers already on Manus Island or Nauru can come to Australia for medical treatment. It only applies to those already in those locations. The Minister for Immigration retains the ability to refuse applications where an asylum seeker is reasonably suspected to be a security threat.
It was passed through the House of Representatives with support from Labor, the Greens, and crossbench members on Tuesday, 12 February. The Senate voted to approve it the next day.
The Morrison Liberal Government has also announced that it will reopen the Christmas Island detention centre.
The asylum seekers will remain in detention centres while they are in Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a press conference on Tuesday that the changes to the legislation mean the weakening of Australia’s border protection policies. People smugglers, Mr Morrison said, do not represent the nuance of the changes when convincing asylum seekers to get on to a boat.
“There’s no protections or truth in advertising laws for people smugglers,” he said.
In a statement released on Wednesday 13 February, Christian aid campaign organisation Micah Australia expressed their support for the Bill.
The statement said that the facts counter the claims that the Bill would release pedophiles and rapists into the community.
“When lives are at stake, facts matter,” the statement said.
“Australia’s border protection architecture —based on turn backs, offshore detention and returns—remains fully intact.”
“Micah believes this Bill balances compassion and security appropriately.”
“It provides a real solution to real human needs we have a responsibility to act on right now.”
Amnesty International has previously described Nauru as “an open air prison” with conditions that “amount to torture.”
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor