Doctoring the system
A Labor-backed plan would allow activists to effectively end offshore processing
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?