Australia repealed legislation, on December 4, that gave doctors the right to decide on asylum seekers getting medical treatment in two remote Pacific detention centres. Asylum seekers intercepted at sea are sent to the detention camps of Papua New Guinea and Nauru and are not allowed to settle in Australia.
In February, opposition, with the help of independent lawmakers, provided doctors with the right to decide on asylum seekers living in the camps and send them to Australia in case they require medical attention. Later in May, Prime Minister Scott Morrison got re-elected and sought to repeal the legislation with the help of independent legislators as the ruling party lacked the majority in the upper house. The government said that the medical transfer provisions have a very broad application with very limited scope for refusing transfers on security or character grounds.
Independent Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie cast the decisive vote that helped repeal the legislation with 37 votes against 35. Lambie said they have worked on a mutually agreeable “outcome” to make sure the borders remain secure and sick people do not die waiting for treatment. She didn’t reveal any further detail on the “secret deal” she brokered with the government to help repeal the law.
"I am voting for the repeal of medevac because I am satisfied that the conditions that led to medevac being passed aren't the same as the conditions today," said Lambie.
"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," she added.
United Nations has repeatedly urged Australia to provide appropriate health care to asylum seekers held in the country’s offshore facilities without durable solutions and transfer those identified as requiring urgent medical attention to Australia.
“These individuals are subject to years of effective confinement in Australia’s custody, based solely on their migration status. The situation of their indefinite and prolonged confinement, exacerbated by the lack of appropriate medical care amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment according to international standards,” said UN human rights experts.