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Debate around Kerryn Phelps’ “medivac” bill ramps up

John Stanley and Paul B Kidd
Article image for Debate around Kerryn Phelps’ “medivac” bill ramps up

Despite agreeing to a security briefing on the so-called “medivac” bill, Labor leader Bill Shorten remains locked in a stand off with the Prime Minister over border protection.

The bill, championed by Independent Kerryn Phelps, would overhaul Australia’s current border protection policies, by giving two specially-appointed doctors the final say on medical transfers for offshore asylum seekers to Australia, rather than the Minister in charge.

The proposed changes will be debated in the lower house when Parliament resumes on Tuesday.

But intelligence agencies and the Australian Government Solicitor have warned the bill would “drastically limit ministerial discretion” and undermine current border protection measures.

The advice also warns the changes have the potential to see a resurgence in the people smuggling trade.

Costings also show taxpayers face a bill of at least $1.4 billion to reopen and staff the Christmas Island detenction centre, and transfer refugees to Australia.

Mr Shorten has paved the way for a compromise on the bill, by agreeing to the security briefing, but when addressing the issue today, his deputy leader Tanya Plibersek, was vague on her stance on the policy. She did, however, reiterate Labor’s support of medical transfers.

Senator Jim Molan, the co-architect of Operation Sovereign Borders, has first hand experience with the people smuggling trade, having visited many of the nations where the trade is rife, and seen with his own eyes what the smugglers do to “sell” Australia.

Senator Molan tells John and Erin it’s quite a sophisticated network.

He says the smugglers tell asylum seekers to “wait until Labor gets in, and then we can go”.

“I don’t think it’s in [Labor’s] DNA to have strong borders”.

When pressed on the rhetoric that the medivac bill would show more compassion, Senator Molan strongly disagrees.

“We will have more people die at sea”.

John Stanley and Paul B Kidd