Parliamentary speeches

Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019 - Third Reading speech

July 25, 2019

I am very proud to stand in this House in support of the medevac process, which is working. I am very proud to stand here with all of my Labor colleagues and our friends on the crossbench in defence of Australian values of humanity, of looking after people in need in our care. This is something which is absolutely extraordinary in this debate. There are 77 members of the government in this chamber. How many of them spoke? How many of them put their names to speak? How many of them had the courage to set out in this place why they think the medevac system should be repealed? There were none. Not a single member other than the minister—the minister who had to introduce this legislation—spoke. I ask members on this side and members opposite to have a look at his second reading speech and to think about how much he had to say in working through the complex and detailed arguments that go to providing medical treatment for people in need in offshore centres. His speech couldn't have lasted more than 90 seconds, and yet it remains the sum total of the government's position in dealing with this critical question. He didn't even make a contribution to the summing up on this bill.

And let us remember that this is a bill that will not, that cannot, come before the Senate until November. The government, this opposition in exile, put this legislation in the House and then had nothing to say about it—absolutely nothing to say about it! I'm concerned that there are members on the government benches who may have thoughts on the operation of this medical treatment process, who may have concerns about the government's agenda, but it is very disappointing that they did not embrace the virtues that they claim are part of the Liberal Party—the opportunity they have to speak their minds in this place, to put their values before the parliament.

—Ms Butler interjecting

It is more than disappointing, as the member for Griffith reminds me, that these people fight so hard to get here. They've been elected to this place to speak in this parliament and have chosen not to do so, either to express their support for this process, which they should do, because it is working, or to perhaps reject the mischaracterisation of this process, which they should do, because the minister has not been accurate in reflecting this process in the concerns that he has expressed—not in this place, unfortunately. He hasn't set them out into the Hansard. He has used inflammatory and divisive language entirely consistent with the tone of the government the member for Cook leads. He had the opportunity to work through any concerns he had with the process. He chose not to do so. That is perhaps the most telling indictment of the government's position on this. It is all politics.

Consistently, we on this side of the House have shown our determination to put politics aside, to make sure that sick people can get medical attention based on medical advice. It's a pretty simple proposition, isn't it?

There is at least one doctor on the other side of the House who I would have thought would have had some views on this matter. It is disappointing that we have not heard from the member for Higgins. Perhaps she was not allowed to make a contribution to this debate. I think we could all have benefited from her views on the operation of medical treatment, particularly for children. Some of the most egregious issues going to medical transfers prior to the introduction of the medevac regime related to children. I spoke in particular about a two-year-old child, who was evacuated under the previous arrangements.

—Mr Dutton interjecting

It's not a concession. It's a statement of fact. It wasn't working; the previous arrangements compromised the health of a two-year-old child. That is an absolutely shocking thing. Fifty-two transfers were affected previously before we took action with the crossbench and we took responsibility. Minister, you should have taken responsibility. Having not done so, you should do one of two things. You should either put the record straight and withdraw the extraordinary allegations and misrepresentations you have made, or put clearly the concerns you have about the detailed operation of the scheme. You haven't done so for one simple reason: it is because you cannot. For all your talk about the concerns you have about the operation of the scheme—

—Mr Dutton interjecting

The Minister for Home Affairs has not put forward his concerns because he cannot do so. There is still time for him; there is still plenty of time. There is a Senate committee process, which I'm sure his department will participate in. I am sure that that Senate committee process will make clear that this parliament, earlier this year, did the right thing. We stood up for humanity without compromising our borders. The challenge for members opposite is to do exactly that. Let us keep in place something that is working.

A FAIR GO FOR AUSTRALIA