Australias controversial medivac (medical evacuation) legislation has been repealed after an independent politician voted with the government.
Independent senator Jacqui Lambie, who delivered the government victory, cried as she told parliament she would support the medivac repeal bill which passed Australias upper house on Wednesday. “Medivac” is also being written as “medevac” in Australian local news reports.
Lambie was one of four crossbenchers in the Senate who supported the repeal bill, which passed by 37 to 35 votes.
Lambie said that she had worked with the Coalition government to secure her vote. She said she believed the government desired an outcome “that our borders are secure, the boats have stopped, and sick people arent dying waiting for treatment.”
The senator added she believed that conditions are fit to repeal the legislation.
“Im satisfied that the conditions that led to medivac being passed arent the same as the conditions today,” Lambie said. “The world in which this vote takes place is different, and I thank the government for working productively with me to make sure of that.
“This is a matter of conscience. I cant let the boats start back up, and I cant let refugees die, whether its sinking into the ocean or waiting for a doctor. And Im voting to make sure that neither of these things happen,” she added.
The medivac legislation, which had been pushed through to become law on March 1 by Australias Labor Party before the election, allowed the temporary transfers of sick asylum seekers from offshore detention—such as in Nauru and Papua New Guinea—to Australia for treatment or assessment, on the recommendation of medical professionals. An exception is a refusal by the Home Affairs Minister on character or national security grounds.
“Prime Minister Scott Morrison and [Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton] have both suggested that the transfer of refugees to Australia for medical care under the new medivac process would displace Australian citizens from medical services,” wrote Lauren Martin and Dr Sangeetha Pillai from the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law.
Morrison said on Wednesday that the repeal of the law would restore integrity to border security.
“We have always taken the actions necessary to ensure that Australians can have confidence in the way our borders are managed,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.