Medevac – another shameful last week in the Australian Parliament

This time last year we lamented the reckless proceedings in the last sitting day of the Australian Parliament as the ALP allowed the Government to force through the widely opposed encryption-breaking legislation without even discussing the amendments they and others in the Senate had put forward as essential  to reduce the excesses in the bill.

There was, however, one stunningly positive parliamentary act, brilliantly initiated by determined independents with the support of the ALP: the passage, against extreme warnings as to disastrous consequences by the Government, of the Medevac law.  A rare, compassionate intervention to remediate aspects of our shameful, ongoing off-shore incarceration of asylum seekers. 

This year we witnessed the shameful and gratuitous repeal of this legislation.

It had worked well. It had not led to an influx of asylum seekers. The Government had no motivation other than assertion of its power. The Government’s utter determination to repeal this one compassionate asylum seeker law reeks of vindictiveness.

They would not even contemplate debate on an  amendment put forward  by Kristina Keneally to ensure that refugees who had already been registered for transfer to Australia would still be sent to Australia for medical treatment.   

The manner in which it achieved the numbers to do so manifests, yet again, the current Government’s disregard for parliamentary procedures and the basics of accountability in a democracy.  Jacqui Lambert enthusiastically supported Medevac last year.  This year she was persuaded that it was no longer necessary. The Government had assured her of this in a deal, the content of which had to remain secret from the Parliament and the public for reasons of ‘national security’! 

It is extraordinary that any Government can consider that it is OK in a democracy to force MPs to vote on such important legislation without any knowledge of the real implications of the decision.

But then of course there may be no deal, and Jackie Lambert may – or may not - have been taken for a ride.  There may or may not be a Government policy to accept the longstanding NZ offer to accept around 150 of these refugees.

Can things get any worse?