Senate debates

Wednesday, 4 December 2019


In Committee

11:11 am

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

These are important amendments. These are amendments that would ensure a savings provision of sorts for people who have already applied for a medevac transfer—that is, sick people on Manus and Nauru who have already applied for the medevac assessment and who are already in the medevac assessment process. They would be saved by this provision that would allow them to complete that. If they are assessed by doctors—doctors appointed by Minister Dutton, by the way—to need medical treatment, they will be able to access it through the medevac process. If this government is so intent on repealing medevac, surely it can. Surely there are some members of the government backbench who have some semblance of a beating heart to understand that if a person is sick they should be able to get medical treatment. Those people who are already in the assessment process should be able to complete it.

These are fundamentally important amendments. It is clear that the indefinite nature of detention has meant that people's physical and mental health has deteriorated substantially. There are sick people on Manus and Nauru. That is undeniable. What is also undeniable is that this government has gone to court to block them from getting medical treatment. That is why medevac was necessary. This government, under their secret deal with Jacqui Lambie—or is it not a deal? Minister Cormann says there is no deal. Senator Lambie says there is a deal. They have refused to lay any details on the table. We have cabinet ministers who are in the dark. We have government backbenchers sitting over there in the dark. We have the Australian public in the dark. Understand this: this is not just some deal. They are changing Australian government policy when it comes to the provision of services to people on Manus and Nauru, when it comes, potentially, to our relationship with our partner and ally New Zealand and when it comes to how we disrupt people-smuggling operations.

This government talks about the need to send the right messages to people smugglers. What are they doing today? They are sending a big, blank cheque. They have a secret deal that might actually make it easier for the people smugglers to market now, right? 'Hey, the Australian government's done a secret deal with Jacqui Lambie. We can't tell you what it is, but it probably makes life easier for us to transfer people here.' That is what this government resorts to, right? They often tell us we have to be careful of the messages we send. They're changing government policy. They're not telling us. They're not telling the Australian public. They're not telling anyone what it entails. At the basic minimum, they should preserve medevac for those people who are sick and need treatment.


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