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Government proposal puts politics above humanity

The Federal Government’s attempt to derail the proposed refugee medical transfer bill cynically places politics above humane treatment of seriously ill refugees.

Spokesperson for the Refugee Action Campaign Canberra Dr John Minns said this today. He slammed the Government’s proposal to set up an independent review panel to vet medical transfers rather than implementing the speedy two doctor approval process proposed in the bill currently before parliament.

“The proposal announced by Prime Minister Morrison is a transparently political attempt to avoid defeat on the floor of the House of Representatives,” he said.

“It proposes a clumsy bureaucratic system which would perpetuate the delays seen in the past which have in some cases led to the death of people who could have been saved with speedy medical treatment.”

Dr Minns said statements that placing a decision on health matters in the hands of doctors rather than bureaucrats would lead to the collapse of the present over-arching government policy on refugees arriving by boat were patently nonsense.

“When it comes to making an urgent decision on treating a sick person in an Australian hospital rather than in an isolated centre with limited facilities, I would trust independent doctors’ opinions over bureaucrats and politicians any time,” he said.

Dr Minns said it was shameful that Australia was even having a debate over this matter.

“A process enabling rapid transfers of sick refugees to Australia should have been established without fuss years ago instead of having to resort to court cases on many occasions”, he said.



“But it is time we moved on from this politically entrenched victimisation of people who have come to us for help. Enough is enough.”

While welcoming the imminent removal of the remaining children and their families from Nauru, Dr Minns said that after six years of confining these families this step was well overdue.

“There is an alternative way of treating refugees fleeing from harm and seeking refuge in our country.” he said. “It would be humane, safe and cost effective and would build on and improve a process Australia implemented for south east Asian refuges decades ago.”

It would involve the establishment of fast transit processing centres at countries of first arrival including flying UNHCR approved refugees to Australia. This would avoid deaths at sea and prevent the psychological and physical harm Australia had inflicted on innocent people by incarcerating them for years on isolated islands.

“Such a system would be not only more humane but far more cost effective than incarcerating people on Manus and Nauru,” he said. “It beggars belief that politicians have not already implemented this proven option, but have been beguiled by the supposed political dividend from the rhetoric of fear.”

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