Doc­tor­ing the sys­tem

A La­bor-backed plan would al­low ac­tivists to ef­fec­tively end off­shore pro­cess­ing

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Letters - AN­DREW BOLT

It seems Bill Shorten re­alises — at last! — that he’s been conned by ac­tivists plot­ting to fly in all 1000 il­le­gal im­mi­grants left on Nauru and Manus Is­land. Un­til now, La­bor’s leader has backed a crazy bill that would ef­fec­tively let ac­tivist doc­tors bring in all those boat peo­ple on fake med­i­cal grounds.

But then ASIO warned this “could re­sult in all trans­fer­ees (on Nauru and Manus) be­ing brought to Aus­tralia within a short pe­riod of time”.

And once these 1000 get in, how many thou­sands more in Africa, the Mid­dle East and Sri Lanka will see our doors are open again?

Has La­bor learned noth­ing from the last time it weak­ened our bor­ders, lur­ing over 50,000 il­le­gal im­mi­grants un­der the Rudd and Gil­lard gov­ern­ments, and watch­ing 1200 more drown?

Yet Shorten had planned to make this bill the law af­ter Par­lia­ment re­turns to­mor­row, with the Mor­ri­son gov­ern­ment no longer con­trol­ling the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

But, oops, with ASIO’s warn­ing be­ing leaked last week, he now says he’s keen to ex­plore some “mid­dle ground” with the gov­ern­ment af­ter all.

He’d bet­ter back down fast, be­cause polls sug­gests that in three months he will be the Prime Min­is­ter who must deal with the con­se­quences.

Un­der this La­bor-backed bill, any two doc­tors here can check an il­le­gal im­mi­grant on Nauru or Manus “re­motely” — say, by Skype — and or­der them flown to Aus­tralia for “med­i­cal or psy­chi­atric as­sess­ment or treat­ment”.

They can also or­der over a rel­a­tive or even friend to ac­com­pany them.

Just about any ill­ness, real or faked, could be used as an ex­cuse. Just last year, doc­tors had one wo­man on Nauru medi­vaced for treat­ment in Bris­bane, even though she turned out to be merely con­sti­pated.

Once here she took le­gal ac­tion to stop the gov­ern­ment from send­ing her back. That’s how this works.

The ac­tivist doc­tors can dis­miss hav­ing their “pa­tient” treated by the Aus­tralia doc­tors on Nauru.

They can just claim that “the per­son is not re­ceiv­ing ap­pro­pri­ate med­i­cal or psy­chi­atric as­sess­ment or treat­ment”. And guess what: hun­dreds of ac­tivist doc­tors and psy­chi­a­trists al­ready in­sist that no treat­ment in Nauru could ever be good enough.

Doc­tors for Refugees, for in­stance, has urged doc­tors to vol­un­teer to “re­view med­i­cal records”, claim­ing “most re­fer­rals in­volve … egre­gious de­vi­a­tions from ac­cept­able care”.

So what could the Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter do to stop this La­bor plan for be­ing rorted? Next to noth­ing. La­bor’s bill says the Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter has just 24 hours to say no to any trans­fer to Aus­tralia, and for one of only two rea­sons.

First, the min­is­ter can say no if he thinks the il­le­gal im­mi­grant is “prej­u­di­cial to se­cu­rity within the mean­ing of the Aus­tralian Se­cu­rity In­tel­li­gence Or­gan­i­sa­tion Act” — as in, they could be a ter­ror­ist or a spy.

(This ASIO Act does not, how­ever, let the min­is­ter ban doc­tors from fly­ing in a thief, fraud­ster, mur­derer, rapist or pae­dophile.)

Sec­ond, the min­is­ter could say there’s no need to fly in the pa­tient — they’re fak­ing or could get treated where they are.

But that’s not fi­nal. The min­is­ter’s re­fusal must then be ap­proved by a panel of six or more medi­cos, at least three ap­pointed by in­de­pen­dent med­i­cal groups.

And here’s the catch. These six ex­perts have just 24 hours to say yes or no to the trans­fer, or the pa­tient gets flown in any­way.

In that 24 hours, these busy pro­fes­sion­als must “con­duct a fur­ther clin­i­cal as­sess­ment of the per­son (whether in per­son or re­motely)” and reach a joint de­ci­sion.

Lo­gis­ti­cally, that will be tough, and even tougher if the “pa­tient” won’t co­op­er­ate. And what if that pa­tient says they won’t ac­cept treat­ment lo­cally, and claims they’re go­ing crazy there and feel­ing sui­ci­dal?

What doc­tor or psy­chi­a­trist would call their bluff? The job of these medi­cos is not to stop frauds or boats, but to get pa­tients treated. Their bias will al­ways be for treat­ment in Aus­tralia.

This al­ready makes the Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter al­most pow­er­less to stop ev­ery il­le­gal im­mi­grant on Manus and Nauru from be­ing flown here.

But there’s one fi­nal trap in La­bor’s leg­is­la­tion.

I’m cer­tain ac­tivist doc­tors won’t or­der one pa­tient at a time be flown here. They’ll or­der ten at once, or even 50.

They’d swamp that panel of ex­perts. Could any panel se­ri­ously ex­am­ine ev­ery one of those ten, or even 50, cases in just the 24 hours they’ve got be­fore those il­le­gal im­mi­grants come any­way?

How could La­bor be so stupid to fall for this?

Or do they think the vot­ers are the stupid ones?

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