Centre Alliance senator warns Coalition not to repeal medevac law | Australia news


Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff has put the Morrison government on notice that repealing the medical evacuations bill will “sully the relationship” between himself and the Coalition.

With negotiations continuing on the Morrison government’s $158bn income tax cut package as the 46th parliament opened on Tuesday, Griff told the ABC it would be a “brave move” to repeal the new system of medical transfers for asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.

Griff said he was not looking at the income tax cut package, which Centre Alliance will support, and the repeal of the medical evacuations procedures, as a related transaction. They were entirely separate, he said.

But he said the government should dump its plan to repeal the medevac legislation passed in the last parliament. “It’s very much a brave move for the government to repeal a process that is working well and only applies to existing asylum seekers who require critical medical treatment that is not available on Nauru.

“It hasn’t opened the asylum seeker floodgates. It’s not a pathway to settlement, as transfers are temporary,” he said.

Griff said the procedures were managed by a government-appointed media panel and the minister had grounds to refuse a medical transfer. “It really is time for the government to stop the scaremongering and show they have a humanitarian side and allow a life-saving process to continue,” he said.

He said while the tax package and the potential repeal were being assessed by the Centre Alliance separately, “in the case of medevac, it will certainly sully the relationship with me at least”.

“I’d like to think [repeal] doesn’t progress.”

The government needs four Senate votes to pass legislation that Labor and the Greens oppose. That puts the Centre Alliance Senate bloc of two in a king-making position in the new parliament.

The Coalition does not have the numbers to proceed with the planned medevac repeal unless the returning Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie supports the government. Lambie is yet to reveal her position.

Griff has discussed the repeal proposal with Lambie, but said on Tuesday where she landed was ultimately up to her. “I’m very keen for everyone to oppose repeal,” he said.

The medevac bill sets out conditions by which sick refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island can be transferred to Australia for medical treatment. In the event of medical advice from two or more treating doctors that a person needs to be evacuated, the home affairs minister has grounds for refusal.

The government has indicated both before and after the election it will repeal the package, which was legislated during the period of minority government, but has dialled down the rhetoric in recent days with a deal on the tax package not yet locked down.

The tax measures will go to the House of Representatives on Tuesday night and the Senate on Thursday.



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