Predictably, the Senate inquiry into the medevac repeal split along party lines, with the government urging passage of the legislation and Labor, the Greens and the Alliance of the Center favoring the maintenance of the law.
Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie remains key to the bill’s fate and still refuses to state her position.
Her spokeswoman said Lambie is “spending the whole weekend going through the report and then she has more time until it gets to the chamber.”
The Medical Evacuation Act – through the role of a medical expert group – facilitates the medical transfer of people from Papua New Guinea and Nauru, and was passed when the Coalition was briefly in power in a government minority before the elections.
In the report tabled Friday, government senators led by committee chair Amanda Stoker said the medical evacuation was unnecessary and had several flaws. These included the absence of a process for returning those who had been transferred, the imposition of strict grounds for refusing a transfer, and an unrealistic time limit for assessing security and morality issues.
Labor, in its dissenting report, said that as part of the investigation, which was conducted by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, experts had indicated that medical evacuation was working well. The government’s claim that the medical evacuation would result in a further wave of boats has not been justified, Labor has said.
He said that at the time of writing, 132 people had been transferred under the legislation. Of these, 23 were transferred after initially being refused by ministers, with the issue later forced by the Independent Medical Panel. Only one case was rejected for security or morality reasons.
The Greens’ dissenting report said the legislation ‘saved lives and provided people with healthcare they had been deliberately denied before [of]”.
Center Alliance said: “Viewed objectively, medical evacuation laws do no harm and only good – at the very least as a complement to pre-existing transfer provisions.”