Senator Jacqui Lambie’s reported demand that the Morrison government look to rehouse refugees in New Zealand looms as a deal-breaker for efforts to repeal the “medevac” laws.
Senator Lambie said on Wednesday she could back the repeal provided the government met an unspecified condition. She declined to say what it was on national security grounds.
But The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age said she had canvassed the government on resettling asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus Island to a third country.
Successive New Zealand governments have offered to resettle 150 refugees but the Morrison government has refused to take this up, saying it would offer backdoor access to Australia.
Senator Lambie is yet to confirm or deny whether the reports are true, saying on Twitter: “I’ve had 10 journo’s [sic] put to me unsourced rumours about what I’ve proposed to the Govt – but I can’t comment on any. Only 3 offices know the condition – mine, the PM’s & the Minister. Everyone else is just speculating.”
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was also tight-lipped about Senator Lambie’s ultimatum.
“Obviously we’ve been in discussions with Jacqui and it’s just not something I can comment on publicly at the moment,” he told 2GB radio.
“I think Jacqui can support the bill and I think she should support the bill.”
On its merits
However, there is a view within the government that the repeal bill should be treated on its merits and not subjected to amendments.
Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick, whose party is opposed to scrapping the medical transfer regime, said he did not know the details of Senator Lambie’s proposal but if the reports were true, the government would be unlikely to bring on the repeal legislation for a vote.
“I don’t know if that is Jacqui’s plan. But I do note the government has rejected that sort of proposal in the past,” he told the ABC.
Senator Patrick said he was willing to consider any amendments that came out of Mr Dutton and Senator Lambie’s talks.
“If they in some way improved the bill or in some way improved the situation for those refugees on Nauru and Manus, we would perhaps look favourably at them. But without any knowledge it’s hard to make a call,” he said.
The government suffered a blow in the Federal Court on Thursday, with the full bench rejecting an appeal against an earlier judgment that doctors could recommend transfers based wholly on an assessment of a patient’s medical records.
The Nauru government passed a regulation that stopped asylum seekers having telemedicine consultations with doctors outside the country, which Australian officials cited in refusing to consider the transfer of a detainee in June.
However, the court ruled that the review of a patient’s medical file by two doctors, who believed the patient needed urgent treatment, was sufficient for a transfer to take place.
Since the medevac regime was introduced, 179 people have been brought to Australia for treatment.
Unable to follow, try again