Coffs medical staff rally against Border Force Act

COFFS Coast medical and health professionals are calling on the Federal Government to amend its contentious Australian Border Force Act.

More than 100 local health professionals gathered on Saturday to oppose secrecy provisions in the act which criminalise recording information and whistle-blowing.

Under the act, anybody working directly or indirectly for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection - including teachers, social workers and doctors - are threatened with two years jail if they disclose what happens inside onshore and offshore detention facilities.

Coffs Harbour doctor David Berger, who organised the protest, said the legislation intimidates professionals against advocating for their patients.

"This law actively restricts health professionals from fulfilling their duty to advocate for the best possible patient care," he said.

"Any time that we take away transparency and scrutiny from the way in which vulnerable people are treated is a time that we should be ringing the alarm bells."

PROTEST: Medical and health professionals rally against provisions of the Federal Government’s Australian Border Force Act.
PROTEST: Medical and health professionals rally against provisions of the Federal Government’s Australian Border Force Act.

In a statement, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the changes reflect the government's focus on protecting national security at the border.

But Mr Berger said the laws set a dangerous precedent which could have broad reaching effects.

"We're calling for amendments to this repressive act to safeguard our right to care for vulnerable patients without fear of sanction," he said.

"I think the government has underestimated the degree in which (health professionals) are bound by professional ethics and the degree in which we're willing to stand up and protect them."



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