Medical care for refugees and asylum seekers

Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill 2018

This Bill, including Labor’s amendments, has now been passed by both Houses of Parliament: 13 February 2019.

‘…there is a lot of misinformation and, frankly, lies, that are being put around’  PMScott Morrison 13 February 2019. Sadly, true. He would know.

The passage of this Bill, instigated by Independent Kerryn Phelps, means that refugees and people seeking asylum currently detained on Nauru and Manus Island will be able to receive the medical care they need in a timely way.

In supporting the Bill, Labor has made amendments to ensure there will be no threat to the safety of Australian residents. There is also no reason to believe that people will risk drowning to get to Australia. We understand that to prevent such drownings the government will continue to intercept and turn back any smuggling boats leaving Indonesia. Any change to this policy would be an extraordinary step for the government.

Here is the message from Tanya Plibersek MP after the vote in the House of Representatives yesterday:

Tonight, Labor voted in the House of Representatives to help sick refugees and asylum seekers currently on Nauru and Manus Island receive urgent medical care.

We just passed a Bill that means the government must now listen to the advice of doctors about whether sick refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island should be evacuated to Australia for medical care. 

We can be tough on borders without being cruel to sick people who need medical care.

Labor was pleased to work with Kerryn Phelps, and other crossbench MPs, to deliver this result. 

It’s an example of what the Parliament can achieve when we work together.

  • We strengthened the Immigration Minister’s discretion to keep Australians safe from serious criminals or security risks.
  • Labor made timeframes for the medical transfer process more workable to ensure sick people will be able to get the medical care they need.
  • These measures only apply to the people currently on Nauru and Manus Island – to remove any incentive, no matter how small, for people to risk their life at sea.

Labor will now work to pass this amended Bill through the Senate.

This Bill was only needed because Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and the Liberals have left people to languish on Nauru and Manus Island for close to six years.

The next important step is to resettle those refugees and asylum seekers, who are still on Nauru and Manus Island, safely in third countries. 

Labor, if elected, will accept New Zealand’s generous offer to resettle refugees with appropriate conditions – and negotiate other third country resettlement options as a priority.

Our work in Labor for Refugees is far from finished, but this is a significant step forward.


ps Craig Foster says in his open letter that the Australian government should “commit to more humane policies for all the ‘Hakeems’ who come into Australia’s care. Our nation has a big heart, we saw just how big in the past few months, and we need to carry this compassion forward.”

He says “Australia needs to look at how we treat every human being that comes to these shores, irrespective of how they arrive. I have committed to many throughout this campaign, including the UN, that I would work to this end when Hakeem was free and I intend to do so.”