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Medical evacuation bill still alive with Phelps open to amendments – politics live Medical evacuation bill still alive with Phelps open to amendments – politics live
(35 minutes later)
Timing is of the essence with all of this though. There are only two sitting weeks scheduled ahead of the budget. This fortnight is practically it, if there are any changes to be made ahead of the election.
Bill Shorten knows it:
This issue is capable of resolution. It is possible in Australia to have strong borders without treating people cruelly. It is possible to make sure that treating medical clinicians, who are looking after people, that their advice is given the appropriate weight. Australia can have strong borders and be compassionate to the treatment of people and their care.
Penny Wong had a few things to say about Scott Morrison this morning.
The Senator is not impressed.
“Fear is all he has left,” she said of Morrison.
“He can’t run on his record, because his record is cuts and chaos, he can’t run on stability because they are so bitterly divided.
“So what does he want run on? He wants to run on a fear campaign.”
There is an Adani protest out the front of parliament today.
It never stops.
Adam Bandt has also weighed in on Labor’s proposed amendments to the medivac bill. He’s told us he is not overly happy. That doesn’t mean he won’t engage in discussions about it though:
“On first look, Labor’s amendments don’t make the current terrible situation any better. Labor is giving a lot of power back to Peter Dutton and it’s not clear that sick refugees will come to Australia any quicker than they do now.”
From the “wasn’t expecting that” box, AAP has reported:
The Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, has apologised to Kevin Rudd after calling the former prime minister a sociopath on live television.
Senator Di Natale acknowledged the term was a “serious slur” and a clinical condition of mental illness.
“I unreservedly retract the suggestion that you are a sociopath,” he wrote last week in a letter to Rudd and cited by the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday.
“I realise that this is a serious slur on your reputation as it is a clinical condition of a mental illness.”
Di Natale made the comment during a Q&A program on ABC television in December.
In a special second Monday treat, Gabrielle Chan is in the office today, forming part of the Guardian brains trust.
Morning, everyone, I’ve had a quick conversation with Kerryn Phelps after her round of interviews this morning.
On Labor’s three principles, it’s clear there is room to move on time limits for decision making, as long as there’s an upper limit in the amendment. The upper limit being 72 hours looks likely at this stage.
Labor’s desire to ring fence the current cohort in offshore detention also looks doable.
The hard yards will be on expanding ministerial discretion.
Phelps is keen to ensure that the reworking doesn’t become too broad so that home affairs ministers get the opportunity to deem everyone a risk on character grounds.
That looks to be the major sticking point, given Labor will want ministerial remit to be as broad as possible, given the Coalition’s political attacks about the potential to let murderers into the country.
But all this is speculative at the moment. The crossbenchers are meeting shortly, then there will be meeting with Labor, consultations with stakeholders, and the actual drafting of amendments.
It’s going to be a busy day.
Bill Shorten was also stopped on the church steps and asked about the medevac bill (of course):
“I think the current government confuses stubbornness with strength,” he said. And then, for some reason explained that concept further.
“They think they are being strong when they are just being stubborn.”
On the bill:
“What we want to do is make sure that whilst we maintain strong borders, we treat refugees humanely and provide the appropriate medical care for people who require it … This issue is capable of resolution.”
Oh good.Oh good.
The bipartisanship of the traditional prayer service lasted for exactly as long as it took MPs to walk out of the church.The bipartisanship of the traditional prayer service lasted for exactly as long as it took MPs to walk out of the church.
Both Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten spoke on the medical evacuation bill, practically on the steps of the Church. Both Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten spoke on the medical evacuation bill, practically on the steps of the church.
Morrison said he will not give “a licence for the parliament to support this in any way shape or form”. Morrison said he would not give “a licence for the parliament to support this in any way shape or form”.
“This bill is acceptable in absolutely no form, it only weakens our borders, it doesn not strengthen it, I will not give a leave pass to weaken our borders.” “This bill is acceptable in absolutely no form, it only weakens our borders, it does not strengthen it, I will not give a leave pass to weaken our borders.”
On that, it is worth revisiting Murph’s analysis of the security advice the government keeps referring to:On that, it is worth revisiting Murph’s analysis of the security advice the government keeps referring to:
Officials argue the current ministerial discretion in the bill to reject people cleared for medical transfer on security grounds isn’t wide enough.Officials argue the current ministerial discretion in the bill to reject people cleared for medical transfer on security grounds isn’t wide enough.
Consistent with the culture of the Home Affairs department, the briefers also clearly object to doctors being decision-makers.The officials say a lot of doctors don’t like offshore detention, ipso facto: “Many doctors in Australia and their professional associations have called for an end to regional processing and it is expected that their recommendations under these amendments would be forthcoming in a short period”. Consistent with the culture of the home affairs department, the briefers also clearly object to doctors being decision makers. The officials say a lot of doctors don’t like offshore detention, ipso facto: “Many doctors in Australia and their professional associations have called for an end to regional processing and it is expected that their recommendations under these amendments would be forthcoming in a short period.
“It is expected that within four weeks of Royal Assent, should the bill pass the House of Representatives, that most of the 1000 individuals would be in contact with ‘treating doctors’ willing to recommend their transfer to Australia for at least medical assessment if not treatment. The fact that treatment is available in PNG, Taiwan or Nauru would not restrict the recommendations by treating doctors to transfer. The individual would not be required to accept treatment in their regional processing country or another location that is not Australia”. “It is expected that within four weeks of Royal Assent, should the bill pass the House of Representatives, that most of the 1000 individuals would be in contact with ‘treating doctors’ willing to recommend their transfer to Australia for at least medical assessment if not treatment. The fact that treatment is available in PNG, Taiwan or Nauru would not restrict the recommendations by treating doctors to transfer. The individual would not be required to accept treatment in their regional processing country or another location that is not Australia.
“Some doctors have publically [sic] asserted that all transferees should be removed from Nauru and PNG for mental health reasons. Provided those doctors are appropriately registered or licensed and have ‘assessed’ transferees either remotely or in person, it will be open to him or her to form the opinion that any or all of the transferees are ‘relevant transitory persons’ and give the secretary notice of this, triggering the provisions in the amendments”. “Some doctors have publically [sic] asserted that all transferees should be removed from Nauru and PNG for mental health reasons. Provided those doctors are appropriately registered or licensed and have ‘assessed’ transferees either remotely or in person, it will be open to him or her to form the opinion that any or all of the transferees are ‘relevant transitory persons’ and give the secretary notice of this, triggering the provisions in the amendments.”
A contention, unless I’m not mistaken. Doctors. Gotta watch them. Always up to something.A contention, unless I’m not mistaken. Doctors. Gotta watch them. Always up to something.
Moving on, the briefers note something the government hasn’t exactly highlighted. “On transfer to Australia, the individuals would be detained under the Migration Act 1958 (Migration Act) and placed in held detentionor in community detention by way of a residence determination”. Moving on, the briefers note something the government hasn’t exactly highlighted. “On transfer to Australia, the individuals would be detained under the Migration Act 1958 (Migration Act) and placed in held detention or in community detention by way of a residence determination”.
So this isn’t quite “two doctors say you can come to Australia, and freedom beckons”, as a number of government frontbenchers have suggested during the past few hyperbolic days. It’s come to Australia (maybe, if you meet the criteria) and get detained again.So this isn’t quite “two doctors say you can come to Australia, and freedom beckons”, as a number of government frontbenchers have suggested during the past few hyperbolic days. It’s come to Australia (maybe, if you meet the criteria) and get detained again.
Despite the brief confirming medical transferees would continue to be detained, this is framed by the authors as a problem.Despite the brief confirming medical transferees would continue to be detained, this is framed by the authors as a problem.
“Placing up to 1000 people in held detention will put pressure on the detention network and with risk assessments, some, but not all, may be suitable for community detention. Those not suitable for community detention would be placed in held detention, likely necessitating the stand-up of the Christmas Island facility and removing our hot contingency fall back for Operation Sovereign Borders”. “Placing up to 1000 people in held detention will put pressure on the detention network and with risk assessments, some, but not all, may be suitable for community detention. Those not suitable for community detention would be placed in held detention, likely necessitating the stand-up of the Christmas Island facility and removing our hot contingency fall back for Operation Sovereign Borders.”
The briefers worry word will get back to the people smugglers. “This path to Australia will likely reach people smugglers in a short period and they could rightly advise their clients that if they were sent at a future time to a regional processing location, they would only need to stay long enough to seek the recommendations of ‘treating doctors’ for transfer to Australia.” The briefers worry word will get back to the people smugglers. “This path to Australia will likely reach people smugglers in a short period and they could rightly advise their clients that if they were sent at a future time to a regional processing location, they would only need to stay long enough to seek the recommendations of ‘treating doctors’ for transfer to Australia.
“We expect that this may encourage those prospective clients of people smugglers who, to date, have not decided to travel due to the dissuasion of returns, turnbacks and regional processing. This bill removes the third pillar - regional processing”. “We expect that this may encourage those prospective clients of people smugglers who, to date, have not decided to travel due to the dissuasion of returns, turnbacks and regional processing. This bill removes the third pillar regional processing”.
Sounds bad, but several paragraphs later, the advice becomes more hedged.After noting the softening in Australia will feed in to marketing by people smugglers, the story becomes more complicated. “Although people smugglers may claim there has been a shift in Australian policy and entry to Australia is now possible with just the opinion of two doctors, the resumption of large-scale people smuggling to Australia will remain dependent on a shift in Potential Illegal Immigrant (PII) intent — not smuggler marketing”. Sounds bad, but several paragraphs later, the advice becomes more hedged. After noting the softening in Australia will feed in to marketing by people smugglers, the story becomes more complicated. “Although people smugglers may claim there has been a shift in Australian policy and entry to Australia is now possible with just the opinion of two doctors, the resumption of large-scale people smuggling to Australia will remain dependent on a shift in Potential Illegal Immigrant (PII) intent — not smuggler marketing.
“PIIs will probably be interested in any perceived or actual pathway where resettlement in a Western country is guaranteed, even if such a pathway includes a period spent in detention. However, PIIs will probably remain sceptical of smuggler marketing and await proof that such a pathway is viable, or that an actual change of policy has occurred, before committing to ventures”. “PIIs will probably be interested in any perceived or actual pathway where resettlement in a Western country is guaranteed, even if such a pathway includes a period spent in detention. However, PIIs will probably remain sceptical of smuggler marketing and await proof that such a pathway is viable, or that an actual change of policy has occurred, before committing to ventures.”
Kerryn Phelps on why she believes Labor blinked, but more importantly, why she everyone needs to get moving. Kerryn Phelps on why she believes Labor blinked and, more importantly, why she believes everyone needs to get moving.
I think you would have to speak to Labor about that, because, you know, what their motives are, you’d have to ask them.I think you would have to speak to Labor about that, because, you know, what their motives are, you’d have to ask them.
But certainly I believe that there is a great willingness by many people in Parliament to get a resolution to this today, or in the next few days, because, as I said, lives do depend on this. But certainly I believe that there is a great willingness by many people in parliament to get a resolution to this today, or in the next few days, because, as I said, lives do depend on this.
We cannot keep going the way we have been going, where the bureaucrats and the minister just block medical transfers by running them through the courts, by taking them to the Federal Court, only to find those ministerial decisions overturned and the doctors’ decisions upheld. We cannot keep going the way we have been going, where the bureaucrats and the minister just block medical transfers by running them through the courts, by taking them to the federal court, only to find those ministerial decisions overturned and the doctors’ decisions upheld.
We need to find the right balance and the right balance is to have medical practitioners making decisions about the medical transfers because they’re saying that they cannot cope on Manus Island and Nauru with particular cases.We need to find the right balance and the right balance is to have medical practitioners making decisions about the medical transfers because they’re saying that they cannot cope on Manus Island and Nauru with particular cases.
And the minister does need to have certain veto powers related to security for Australia, and if we can get the wording to everyone’s satisfaction, let’s do that today.And the minister does need to have certain veto powers related to security for Australia, and if we can get the wording to everyone’s satisfaction, let’s do that today.
Speaking to the ABC, Kerryn Phelps expanded on concerns she has about Labor’s proposed amendment to broaden national security ministerial discretion to include people who have been convicted of a serious crime, when it came to the medical evacuation bill.Speaking to the ABC, Kerryn Phelps expanded on concerns she has about Labor’s proposed amendment to broaden national security ministerial discretion to include people who have been convicted of a serious crime, when it came to the medical evacuation bill.
“The first thing is that these people have all been, if they’ve been assessed as refugees under the refugee convention, they cannot have committed a serious crime in their home country. The first thing is that these people have all been, if they’ve been assessed as refugees under the refugee convention, they cannot have committed a serious crime in their home country.
But, we also need to look at what the definition of serious crime is, because if for example somebody has committed a crime in their country, which is a political crime, for example, complaining about something their government has done, been involved in a protest, being a human rights protester, a woman who has committed adultery who is sentenced to death by stoning, these are the sorts of things that might come under serious criminality and so we need to take a very careful look at that definition. But we also need to look at what the definition of serious crime is, because if for example somebody has committed a crime in their country, which is a political crime, for example, complaining about something their government has done, been involved in a protest, being a human rights protester, a woman who has committed adultery who is sentenced to death by stoning these are the sorts of things that might come under serious criminality and so we need to take a very careful look at that definition.
And what I’m very keen to do is to avoid being in exactly the same position where we are now, where the minister has excessive veto powers and runs every serious medical case through the courts, only to find that the doctor’s original recommendations were upheld.” And what I’m very keen to do is to avoid being in exactly the same position where we are now, where the minister has excessive veto powers and runs every serious medical case through the courts, only to find that the doctor’s original recommendations were upheld.
Most of the people on Manus Island and Nauru have been judged to be refugees – not just by the UNHCR but also by Australian authorities. And given how long they have spent in our off-shore detention centres, there is nothing we don’t know about these people. Nothing. Most of the people on Manus Island and Nauru have been judged to be refugees – not just by the UNHCR but also by Australian authorities. And given how long they have spent in our offshore detention centres, there is nothing we don’t know about these people. Nothing.
Mike Bowers spent the morning at St Paul’s Anglican Church. Mike Bowers spent the morning at St Paul’s Anglican church.
He sent through the message he’d sent the photos, before he said good morning, if that helps you place his feelings about today.He sent through the message he’d sent the photos, before he said good morning, if that helps you place his feelings about today.
Could I also just say that this little girl is an absolute MOOD Could I also just say that this little girl is an absolute MOOD.
Before all the messiness of the day begins in earnest, some good news – Hakeem al-Araibi is due to arrive in Melbourne very soon, after his almost three-month ordeal.Before all the messiness of the day begins in earnest, some good news – Hakeem al-Araibi is due to arrive in Melbourne very soon, after his almost three-month ordeal.
Here is what the prime minister had to say late last night, after the decision not to pursue the extradition case:Here is what the prime minister had to say late last night, after the decision not to pursue the extradition case:
But what we’d like to do tonight is to thank and show our appreciation to the Thai government for the decision that they have taken today. We greatly respect the process that they’ve had to work through and we greatly appreciate their listening to the issues that have been raised by our government and many others who have raised this case.But what we’d like to do tonight is to thank and show our appreciation to the Thai government for the decision that they have taken today. We greatly respect the process that they’ve had to work through and we greatly appreciate their listening to the issues that have been raised by our government and many others who have raised this case.
These issues are complex and our relationship with the Thai government and in particular with Prime Minister Prayut, is very strong. We thank them for the way that they have engaged with us on this matter now, for some period of time. I also want to thank – and the foreign minister will add further to this – all of those Australians who have been so supportive of Hakeem. Those who have provided direct support to him personally, particularly Craig Foster, who has very much championed his case and cause and I have spoken to him and Marise has spoken to him on many occasions, we’ve worked closely together.These issues are complex and our relationship with the Thai government and in particular with Prime Minister Prayut, is very strong. We thank them for the way that they have engaged with us on this matter now, for some period of time. I also want to thank – and the foreign minister will add further to this – all of those Australians who have been so supportive of Hakeem. Those who have provided direct support to him personally, particularly Craig Foster, who has very much championed his case and cause and I have spoken to him and Marise has spoken to him on many occasions, we’ve worked closely together.
But there is still a journey ahead, there is still a process to be followed. But we are very grateful for the relationship we have with the Thai government that has enabled us to work through these issues in the way that we have. I particularly want to commend the foreign minister for the work that she has done and that all of our consular officials have done. These issues are very delicate, they’re very sensitive and I think what we’ve seen here is the professionalism of our foreign service on show. So we thank them very much for all of their work and all of their advice.But there is still a journey ahead, there is still a process to be followed. But we are very grateful for the relationship we have with the Thai government that has enabled us to work through these issues in the way that we have. I particularly want to commend the foreign minister for the work that she has done and that all of our consular officials have done. These issues are very delicate, they’re very sensitive and I think what we’ve seen here is the professionalism of our foreign service on show. So we thank them very much for all of their work and all of their advice.
Welcome to the first sitting day of 2019.Welcome to the first sitting day of 2019.
We begin today as we ended yesterday – talking about the Manus Island and Nauru medical evacuation bill.We begin today as we ended yesterday – talking about the Manus Island and Nauru medical evacuation bill.
As Katharine Murphy reported:As Katharine Murphy reported:
At the end of a meeting of the shadow cabinet, the left and right factions, and the caucus, the ALP signalled it wanted to rework the proposal it supported in the parliament last December to increase the discretion of the home affairs minister to refuse medical transfers for asylum seekers, to make the timeframes for decision making less restrictive, and to ensure the procedures only applied to the cohort currently on Manus Island and Nauru.At the end of a meeting of the shadow cabinet, the left and right factions, and the caucus, the ALP signalled it wanted to rework the proposal it supported in the parliament last December to increase the discretion of the home affairs minister to refuse medical transfers for asylum seekers, to make the timeframes for decision making less restrictive, and to ensure the procedures only applied to the cohort currently on Manus Island and Nauru.
The backflip, which had been telegraphed by Bill Shorten since the middle of last week, followed a substantial rhetorical bombardment – including misrepresentations about the detail of the legislation – by the Morrison government in an effort to avoid losing the first substantive vote in the House of Representatives since 1929.The backflip, which had been telegraphed by Bill Shorten since the middle of last week, followed a substantial rhetorical bombardment – including misrepresentations about the detail of the legislation – by the Morrison government in an effort to avoid losing the first substantive vote in the House of Representatives since 1929.
This morning, Kerryn Phelps, who was the inspiration behind the bill getting to this point, has said she will look at Labor’s proposed amendments. She said her focus was on getting ill people the treatment they need.This morning, Kerryn Phelps, who was the inspiration behind the bill getting to this point, has said she will look at Labor’s proposed amendments. She said her focus was on getting ill people the treatment they need.
“That is what this is all about – getting medical treatment for those people who can’t get medical treatment on Manus Island and Nauru,” she told Sky News.“That is what this is all about – getting medical treatment for those people who can’t get medical treatment on Manus Island and Nauru,” she told Sky News.
“So, if the legislation is confined to that cohort, that might be something that we can look at, but I would have to again speak to the refugee sector about that.”“So, if the legislation is confined to that cohort, that might be something that we can look at, but I would have to again speak to the refugee sector about that.”
So stay tuned as we follow those developments.So stay tuned as we follow those developments.
Both party leaders are at the traditional beginning of parliament church service this morning, before heading back to parliament where all the morning’s lessons will be promptly forgotten.Both party leaders are at the traditional beginning of parliament church service this morning, before heading back to parliament where all the morning’s lessons will be promptly forgotten.
And we’ll be here documenting it all. Mike Bowers is already out and about, as is Katharine Murphy and the rest of the Guardian’s brains trust. You’ll find us on Twitter and, when time permits, in the comments.And we’ll be here documenting it all. Mike Bowers is already out and about, as is Katharine Murphy and the rest of the Guardian’s brains trust. You’ll find us on Twitter and, when time permits, in the comments.
I haven’t found a coffee this morning, so once that is done, I will be straight back into it. Ready? Let’s go.I haven’t found a coffee this morning, so once that is done, I will be straight back into it. Ready? Let’s go.