Clarity around Medevac from the Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla


Following on from the recently passed Medevac Bill the Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla have issued the following media release: With all kinds of misleading claims about the recently passed Medevac Bill, RAC Eurobodalla would like to spell out some basic facts.

The new legislation sets out how sick people on Nauru and Manus can be transferred to Australia for medical treatment. If there is medical advice from two or more treating doctors that a person needs to be evacuated, the home affairs minister STILL HAS GROUNDS FOR REFUSAL.

The minister can refuse the transfer if he or she disagrees with the clinical assessment.

The minister can refuse if he reasonably suspects or if ASIO advise him that the transfer would be a security issue.

The minister can refuse if he knows the transferee has a substantial criminal record under S501(7) of the Migration Act and the minister reasonably believes the person would expose the Australian community to a serious risk of criminal conduct.

If the minister denies the transfer request on health grounds (as opposed to security or criminal grounds), the Independent Health Advice Panel conducts a second assessment “as soon as practicable”.

If the panel decides the person should be transferred on health grounds, and there is no security issue, the person will be transferred. This process now needs to be done within 72 hours.

There has been lots of talk about rapists, paedophiles and murderers coming to Australia for medical treatment. Our previous PM Malcolm Turnbull told Donald Trump “we know exactly who these people are, it is not because they are bad people. The only reason Australia we cannot let them into Australia is because of our commitment to not allow people to come by boat.” However, it is not illegal for people to seek asylum by boat. These people have already been vetted and over 88% have been found to be genuine refugees.

The independent medical panel will include the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer (CMO), the Home Affairs Department’s CMO, and at least six others (a nominee of the President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and a paediatrician. They will not be paid for their service to avoid a constitutional problem with the bill.

The new procedures only apply to those already on Nauru and Manus Island, not to any new boat arrivals.

Anyone transferred to Australia will remain in detention, unless the minister decides otherwise.

The new medical evacuation procedures do not destroy the border protection regime.

The new law has one job; to put the decisions of who needs to be medically evacuated into the hands of medical experts, not bureaucrats, and in a timely manner. The government has already transferred a number of people to Australia for medical treatment, often after contested court proceedings. Doctors will have more influence now.

Of course it is possible that people smugglers may be interested in this change if they do not understand the new law, especially given some of the misleading claims being put about by people who don’t understand or are simply misrepresenting the purpose of this new law. However boat turn backs will still happen.

RAC Convener, Bernie Richards, says “Anyone troubled that boats may come again needs to know that there have been at least 33 boat turn backs that we know of since the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders, as stated in Senate Estimates Oct 2018, so the boats have not stopped, contrary to what Morrison and Dutton claim.”

The Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla, along with other refugee advocacy groups, the Australian Medical Association, Doctors Without Borders, and members of Parliament, welcome the passing of this new law, and sees it as a humane way forward to assist refugees whose health is deteriorating in Manus and Nauru. The Refugee Action Collective Eurobodalla

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