Push to axe medevac law passes first hurdle
CONTROVERSIAL laws that enable two doctors to sign off on sick refugees on Manus Island and Nauru being transferred to Australia for medical treatment are one step closer to being reversed.
The government passed a bill to repeal the refugee medevac laws through the House of Representatives this morning after warning since December they could start a new wave of boat arrivals to Australia.
It will now go before the Senate, where the vote of crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie will be crucial in whether the government can successfully scrap the laws.
The government also needs Pauline Hanson, fellow One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts and independent Cory Bernardi to pass the legislation.
Centre Alliance opposes repealing the laws which it helped to pass, along with Labor, the Greens and independent MP Kerryn Phelps, in December.
The bill passed the House 77 votes to 69 this morning.
It comes as Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton confirmed this week three boats of asylum seekers had attempted to reach Australia since the election.
The latest boat was intercepted off the coast of Christmas Island last weekend.
Five Sri Lankan men on board were flown home on a government jet on Tuesday.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese rejected suggestions the medevac laws had sparked the new wave of boats as he bluntly confirmed Labor would not back any attempt to repeal the laws.
He said a terror attack in Sri Lanka on Easter could also be responsible.
"It's not up to me to put out there what the motives might be for people who I can't obviously speak for. But the terrorism incident over Easter in Sri Lanka was very serious obviously and it's also perhaps the case that might have played a role," he told Sky on Tuesday.
He said the medevac laws were working and about 90 people had been transferred to Australia.
Mr Albanese blamed Mr Dutton for "undermining" Australia's border security by implying the legislation could give new arrivals a loophole to come to Australia.
"It doesn't do any of that of course, and of course anyone who arrives by boat or attempts to arrive by boat isn't eligible under the Medevac legislation. It only applies to people who were already on Manus and Nauru, prior to the legislation," he said.
The medevac repeal bill will now go to a committee for review before they go before the Senate in November.