Legislation to overturn Medevac laws that gave doctors more power to decide whether asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island and Nauru should be transferred to Australia for urgent medical treatment passed the Senate on Wednesday morning.
The Morrison government’s push to repeal Medevac was passed 37 votes to 35 after it secured the crucial deciding vote of Tasmanian independent Senator Jacqui Lambie.
ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler labelled the Medevac repeal cruel and heartless and yet another shockingly disappointing move of inhumanity from the federal government.
“This comes at the end of a year in which we’ve seen the government attempt to attack Australian workers and their families, refuse to act on climate change in the face of devastating destruction of parts of the country by bushfires, and a continuing neglect of elderly Australians,” Ms Butler said.
“Nurses, midwives and other health professionals know first-hand that there is no way asylum seekers and refugees on Papua New Guinea and Nauru can receive the level of medical treatment they require in Australia’s offshore detention centres.
“Medevac had been working and saved lives. This inhumane decision denies proper care to seriously ill, vulnerable people and once again places them at serious risk.”
Activist group GetUp said the government’s “callous and vindictive political move” had ripped away the humanity of refugees being able to access vital medical care.
“We all remember the crisis before Medevac became law, 12 people died offshore and people faced serious delays before they received medical treatment,” GetUp’s Human Rights Director Shen Narayanasamy said.
“The Morrison government has chosen to deny sick people the right to medical care, against all expert medical advice.
“Medevac ensured doctors, not Dutton, were the ones making medical decisions for gravely ill people offshore.”
GetUp said it was now up to the government to ensure refugees still had access to the same medical care they were able to receive under Medevac.
International medical humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said the decision to repeal medevac endangered patients in need.
“Asylum seekers and refugees who remain indefinitely contained on Nauru and PNG have been blocked again from accessing treatment for critical health conditions where adequate care is not available locally,” MSF Executive Director Paul McPhun said.
“During our time working with patients on Nauru, MSF psychiatrists and psychologists determined that the majority had their lives impaired by mental illness
“To now deny medical professionals from taking decisions in patients’ best interests – and to effectively hand that power back to unqualified officials – entrenches dangerous precedents set in the last years and puts those most sick and vulnerable at risk.”