Fight continues over refugee health transfers

The political row over asylum seeker health has deepened, with the Federal Court ruling that medical transfers to Australia from Nauru and Manus Island can be allowed with only a review of case files by doctors.

The court found recently that two treating doctors would only need to review case files and could do so without seeing the patient.

The ruling softens a key measure in the so-called medevac laws that passed in March. That legislation stipulated that two treating doctors were required to attend to sick refugees in order to approve their transfer.

The Government wants the laws repealed, but instead says they have now been effectively watered down.

The Federal Court ruling stated: “I would not conclude from the available textual and contextual indications, that personal engagement between the ‘treating doctor’ and the transitory person was intended as a mandatory requirement for the assessment required by s 198E(7) in order to gain entry under s 198E(1) to the scheme established by the Medevac provisions.”

Immediately following the Federal Court decision, the Government claimed it would “open the floodgates” to transfers from Nauru.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton accused asylum seekers of exploiting the new laws and said many who had been brought to Australia were not even sick.

He even accused rape victims of deception – without providing any evidence to back up his claims.

“Some people are trying it on. Let’s be serious about this,” Mr Dutton said.

“There are people who have claimed that they’ve been raped and came to Australia to seek an abortion because they couldn’t get an abortion on Nauru.

“They arrived in Australia and then decided they were not going to have an abortion. They have the baby here and the moment they step off the plane their lawyers lodge papers in the Federal Court, which injuncts us from sending them back.”

Mr Dutton subsequently claimed that asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru are refusing resettlement offers in the United States because of the new medevac laws.

He went as far as saying 250 applications for medical transfer to Australia were currently being reviewed by “activist” doctors.

Shadow Home Affairs Minister Kristina Keneally accused Mr Dutton of crying wolf.

“These statements have never been true, and now there is ample evidence on the public record that shows Mr Dutton is not speaking in facts, but scaremongering,” she said.

Refugee advocates have also described Mr Dutton’s remarks a “beyond shameful” and they insist there are not even 250 cases currently being considered for transfer.

The AMA has remained firm on its position regarding the health of asylum seekers, insisting it is vital that everyone in the care of the Australian Government have access to quality health care.

“There is compelling evidence that the asylum seekers on Nauru, especially the children, are suffering from serious physical and mental health conditions, and they should be brought to Australia for appropriate quality care,” AMA President Dr Tony Bartone has said.

“This is a health and human rights issue of the highest order. We must do the right thing.”