Lambie firms as kingmaker on medevac laws

Scott Morrison wants to hold a line on border security by scrapping refugee medical evacuation laws.
Scott Morrison wants to hold a line on border security by scrapping refugee medical evacuation laws.

The future of refugee medical transfers are in the hands of Jacqui Lambie, after a Senate committee failed to reach an agreement on the federal government's push to repeal the laws.

The government is trying to overturn laws that give doctors a greater say in transferring asylum seekers from offshore detention to Australia for medical treatment.

A Senate review into the repeal bill split along party lines.

As expected, the government-dominated committee supported the repeal, with opposition parties handing down dissenting reports.

Senator Lambie, who will cast the deciding vote in parliament next month, has indicated she will take time to digest the report.

However, she has said the situation in Syria could influence her position, after raising concerns the conflict could trigger an influx of asylum seekers.

The laws make it easier for asylum seekers held in Nauru and Papua New Guinea to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment.

The changes passed against the government's wishes earlier this year with support from Labor and the crossbench.

As he seeks support from Senator Lambie to unwind the medevac laws, Prime Minister Scott Morrison blasted others for their "naivety" about border security.

"There is this naivety that you can change the rules and they think it won't have any impact - well of course it will," he told 2GB radio on Friday.

"The thing about border protection is you've got to be consistent, you've got to be clear, and you've got to hold the line.

"The minute you show that you're prepared to crack it, well, that's when you start losing and Australia can't afford to lose on border protection."

Government committee members listed four flaws in the laws.

These included the absence of a process to return transferees and an unrealistic time frame to assess security and character concerns.

They also pointed to a lack of remuneration for independent health advice panel members and the strict grounds for refusing transfers.

But the Human Rights Law Centre says the Senate report fails to justify the government's attempt to repeal the medevac laws.

"Before the medevac laws, decisions about transfers were too often made for political rather than medical reasons," legal director David Burke said.

"For the first time in more than six years of indefinite offshore detention, there is a fair, independent and timely process to allow people to receive vital medical treatment and assessment."

Mr Dutton is hopeful the committee report clears up any questions Senator Lambie has.

"There are people coming to our country who are of poor character and who shouldn't come here, that have only come here because of the medevac laws that Labor passed," he told reporters in Canberra.

"That any government, Liberal or Labor, could be compelled to bring people into our country of bad character is completely unacceptable."

The medevac laws allow the minister to block transfers based on national security grounds, but Mr Dutton argues these discretionary powers are too narrow.

Australian Associated Press

This story Lambie firms as kingmaker on medevac laws first appeared on The Canberra Times.