Australia repeals law allowing onshore medical care for refugees

Jacqui Lambie speaks in the Senate with Mathias Cormann

Jacqui Lambie speaks in the Senate with Mathias Cormann

Medevac law allows for doctors to evacuate the sick to Australia for urgent medical care.

The Medevac Bill has been killed off on the floor of the Senate, and it's all thanks to independent senator Jacqui Lambie and some sort of unspoken secret deal that the Government feebly tried to deny existed.

Lambie had indicated previously that her vote for the repeal would be conditional on the government meeting a condition which she would not specify.

"I know that's frustrating to people and I get that - I don't like holding things back like this but when I say I can't discuss this publicly because of national security I am being 100 per cent honest to you".

After securing re-election in May, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that his government would seek to repeal the legislation, although he needed the support of independent lawmakers as the coalition does not enjoy a majority in the Australian Senate.

"I'm not anxious about the politics of this issue, I'm anxious about the people, the patients here at the centre of this system", he told the National Press Club.

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About 650 refugees have been resettled in the USA, with a further 250 in Papua New Guinea and Nauru approved to go at a future date, Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton told reporters in Canberra.

Lambie reached a deal with the Government that she "can not disclose" due to "national security reasons" - a deal that is strongly rumoured to be the Government's agreement to accept New Zealand's offer to permanently resettle asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru. "Now we've just heard Senator Lambie say there is a deal", he said.

"Senator Lambie is fully aware of the government's policies, and is pleased with those policies, and today she has supported those policies", Morrison said.

"The government is always looking at ways in which it can resettle those who are on Nauru".

"They've all used it as a backdoor to get into the country", she said.

"To now deny medical professionals from taking decisions in patients' best interests - and to effectively hand that power back to unqualified officials. puts those most sick and vulnerable at risk", Paul McPhun, Executive Director of Medecins Sans Frontières Australia said in a statement.

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But the Federal Government continues to insist there was no deal, let alone a secret one.

"Labor took a decision to weaken our border protection policies and we've taken a decision today to strengthen our border protection policies", he said.

Since 2013, the nation has sent asylum seekers who arrive by boat to the detention centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG).

It argued the legislation had been a "border safety" threat and was a "loophole" for refugee advocates to carry asylum seekers into Australia.

There are now more than 200 refugees and asylum seekers left on PNG and more than 250 remaining on Nauru.

Opposition Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally says the government has done a secret deal on repealing Medevac laws.

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