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22 Oct 2019

The AMA has joined 11 Medical Colleges in calling on Australian lawmakers to keep intact the Medevac legislation that gives doctors proper say over the health of asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru.

Laws that give doctors more influence over whether asylum seekers should be transferred to the Australian mainland for treatment were passed in February, against the wishes of the Coalition Government.

But following the May federal election, the Government introduced legislation to repeal the Medevac laws.

The repeal bill passed in the House of Representatives in July, but the Senate referred it to a committee and is due to vote on it in November.

The committee, which is controlled by the Government, has recommended in its report that Medevac be repealed.

The committee, however, did not reach a consensus and has broken down along party lines.

The Opposition, the Greens, and the Centre Alliance each wrote consenting reports saying the Medevac laws should not be repealed.

The AMA has strongly supported Medevac and insists the Independent Health Advice Panel (IHAP) process established by the new laws is working well.

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone said the AMA had repeatedly proposed a body of clinical experts, independent of government, with the power to investigate and advise on the health and welfare of asylum seekers and refugees.

This call was always backed by the Medical Colleges, and with the establishment of IHAP, the AMA and the Colleges have been steadfast in their support.

Eleven Colleges recently called for the Medevac legislation and the IHAP process to be maintained. The AMA backed that call.

Dr Bartone said the united call from the esteemed Medical Colleges was consistent with the long-held AMA position that those who are in the care of the Australian Government have the right to appropriate medical care without discrimination, regardless of citizenship, visa status, or ability to pay.

“Over the last couple of months, I have met Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, and the Home Affairs Department Chief Medical Officer Dr Parbodh Gogna, to reiterate the AMA’s strong support for Medevac and the ongoing work of IHAP,” Dr Bartone said.

“The AMA has a representative on IHAP. IHAP is working as intended and the Parliament should continue to support and properly resource it into the future.

“Asylum seekers and refugees in Australia or in offshore detention, in the care of the Australian Government, should be treated with compassion, respect, and dignity.”

With One Nation and independent Senator Cory Bernardi joining with the Government in wanting Medevac repealed, it leaves two major blocs in the Senate with opposing views on the repeal bill.

Independent crossbench Senator Jacqui Lambie appears to have the deciding vote and is yet to reveal her position.

More than 130 asylum seekers have been transferred to mainland Australia from Nauru and Papua New Guinea since Medevac became law.

The 11 Medical Colleges issued a joint statement mid-October saying the process was working well and should be maintained.

The AMA commended the Colleges and added its voice to the call.




Published: 22 Oct 2019