Senate debates

Thursday, 17 October 2019


Department of Home Affairs: Paladin Contracts; Order for the Production of Documents

5:33 pm

Photo of Kristina KeneallyKristina Keneally (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

I note document Nos. 7 and 8 on today's Notice Paper on the Migration Act—the Independent Health Advice Panel quarterly report for 1 April to 30 June 2019 and the government response—that are tabled here as required by the medevac legislation. The summary of the Independent Health Advice Panel's June quarterly report is proof that medevac is working as intended. It's simple: if you are sick, you should be able to see a doctor. Labor believes that we can be strong on border security without being weak on humanity.

Medevac allows vulnerable people on Manus and Nauru to get the treatment they require, and the process is controlled by the minister or government-appointed doctors. This report reveals that in the period between 1 April and 30 June, 15 cases were referred to the Independent Health Advice Panel. In nine cases, the panel upheld the minister's refusal to transfer. The panel only overturned the minister on six occasions, and I need to make the point again: the panel is staffed by doctors appointed by the government. This means the independent panel during this period had agreed with the minister on more occasions than not. The Morrison government and the Minister for Home Affairs will do everything in their power to discredit medevac as they attempt to repeal it.

Yesterday the Minister for Home Affairs tabled a different report in the parliament, saying he used his power to refuse the transfer of a family member on character grounds. What I'm about to say may come as some surprise, but I congratulate the home affairs minister for using these laws—laws that the Labor opposition put in place—to ensure that the Australian community remains safe. Under medevac, the minister can refuse to transfer on security or serious character grounds. Unlike refusals on medical grounds, which can be reviewed by the Independent Health Advice Panel, decisions of this nature do not get reviewed and cannot be overturned. These laws have actually strengthened ministerial controls from what existed before medevac. In fact, before medevac became law, the courts were deciding medical transfers on health grounds only, not even taking into consideration security concerns.

I'll also take this opportunity to highlight that it is a legislative requirement that anyone who is transferred to Australia under medevac must be placed in onshore detention unless the minister explicitly approves their release into the community. The home affairs minister is so desperate to distract from the 95,000 aeroplane people who have arrived on his watch that he's boasting about using a power Labor ensured was in place to keep security threats out of the country. This report being tabled in the parliament is also a legislative requirement, and it keeps the home affairs minister accountable. It puts the facts on the public record in the parliament, explains his decision and allows the Australian public to understand it. If it weren't for this report being tabled in the parliament, the home affairs minister could make any outrageous claim he wanted without being held to account.

When it comes to medevac, the Minister for Home Affairs has made a multitude of outrageous, untruthful and desperate claims. In March, the minister claimed medical transfers were going to displace Australians from hospital beds—a claim disputed by doctors and hospitals across Australia. The minister argued that two doctors from Nimbin could force the government to bring people from Manus or Nauru to Australia. These claims are simply not true. The report tabled today and, indeed, the report tabled by the minister in the other place make that clear.

The minister also claimed that a thousand people would flood Australia through medevac. Well, that hasn't happened at all! Neither have his claims that people could be transferred without the government's consent. This minister said on Sky News in June, 'People of bad character can come, are able to come and, in fact, are required to come under Labor's laws that they passed.' It's clear that the Minister for Home Affairs, just like the Prime Minister, is loose with the truth. This report before the parliament is proof that these claims from the Minister for Home Affairs are not true. By his own admission in a report tabled yesterday in the other place, the minister has made clear that he actually has the power to stop dangerous individuals being transferred to Australia. These reports that were tabled today are proof that medevac is working. Labor strongly supports medevac. These laws should not be repealed by the government, and people in need who are sick should be able to receive medical attention.


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