Plan for med­i­cal panel to de­cide if refugees come here

The Australian - - THE NATION - BEN PACK­HAM

Doc­tors would have the fi­nal say on who gets to come to Aus­tralia from Nauru and Manus Is­land ex­cept in cases where it would jeop­ar­dise na­tional se­cu­rity, un­der La­bor-backed changes to im­mi­gra­tion that look set to pass the par­lia­ment next year.

Scott Mor­ri­son yes­ter­day blasted the med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion leg­is­la­tion, which was left stranded in the par­lia­ment un­til it re­turns in Fe­bru­ary, as a threat to “off­shore pro­cess­ing as we know it”. The Prime Min­is­ter said the leg­is­la­tion would restart the peo­ple-smug­gling trade.

“This is about get­ting rid of off­shore pro­cess­ing. They never be­lieved in it in the first place,” Mr Mor­ri­son said.

La­bor teamed with the Greens and key cross­benchers yes­ter­day to trans­form a gov­ern­ment “house­keep­ing” bill into a highly con­tested bill to stream­line med­i­cal evac­u­a­tions from off­shore pro­cess­ing coun­tries.

La­bor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said those on Manus and Nauru had been there “too long”, and needed bet­ter ac­cess to Aus­tralia for med­i­cal treat­ment.

“The back­ground is the gov­ern­ment has failed to find per­ma­nent homes for peo­ple on Manus Is­land and Nauru,” she said.

Cross­bench amend­ments, based on those pro­posed by in­de­pen­dent MP Kerry Phelps, would al­low two doc­tors to de­mand the trans­fer of a refugee or asy­lum-seeker, with their fam­ily mem­bers, to Aus­tralia.

The bill would also clear the re­main­ing 10 refugee chil­dren from Nauru, to­gether with their fam­ily mem­bers, ex­cept in cases of na­tional se­cu­rity risk.

An in­de­pen­dent med­i­cal panel would be em­pow­ered to con­firm or re­ject trans­fers rec­om­mended by doc­tors, and could only be over­rid­den by an im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter who “rea­son­ably be­lieves that the trans­fer of the per­son to Aus­tralia would be prej­u­di­cial to se­cu­rity within the mean­ing of the Aus­tralian Se­cu­rity In­tel­li­gence Or­gan­i­sa­tion Act 1979”.

In a day of par­lia­men­tary drama, La­bor and the Greens re­lied on the sup­port of Der­ryn Hinch, Tim Storer, Rex Pa­trick and Stir­ling Griff to pass the amended laws in the Se­nate.

But de­lay­ing tac­tics by gov­ern­ment sen­a­tors and their sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing Aus­tralian Con­ser­va­tives sen­a­tor Cory Bernardi and One Na­tion’s Pauline Han­son, en­sured the amended bill could not be send back to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for a fi­nal vote — where it is ex­pected to pass — be­fore par­lia­ment rose for the year.

The gov­ern­ment had ear­lier sought to con­vince cross­bench sen­a­tors and MPs to switch their sup­port from La­bor and the Greens by of­fer­ing them high­level brief­ings by Home Af­fairs Sec­re­tary Mike Pez­zullo and Op­er­a­tion Sov­er­eign Bor­ders com­man­der Stephen Os­bourne.

Sen­a­tor Hinch, Cen­tre Al­liance MP Re­bekha Sharkie, and for­mer Lib­eral turned in­de­pen­dent MP Ju­lia Banks all de­clined to at­tend the brief­ing.

The Prime Min­is­ter ac­cused La­bor and the cross­bench of play­ing games with na­tional se­cu­rity.

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