The Government Just Voted To Repeal The Medevac Bill, And People Are Absolutely Disgusted

"Not a compassionate heart amongst them."

medevac medivac

Well, the government just voted to repeal the asylum seeker medical evacuation (or “medevac”) bill, aka the law that ensures that sick refugees and asylum seekers in offshore detention are transferred to Australia when they’re in need of health care, and people are pretty disgusted right now.

The motion to repeal the bill passed the House of Representatives today. It still needs to pass the Senate, of course, which won’t consider it until a parliamentary committee reports its findings in October, so for the time being the medical evacuation legislation is still in place.

Still, today was a key step: the entire Coalition government came together and voted to remove a crucial lifeline for people in Australia’s offshore detention system.

If you need a reminder, the medevac (or medivac) legislation was passed earlier this year, after it was introduced to Parliament by Independent MP Kerryn Phelps. The government was powerfully opposed to it, in large part because the bill’s passage was embarrassing — it was the first time a government had lost a substantial vote on legislation in the House of Representatives in 90 years.

The bill itself, though, is pretty straightforward. Basically, once two doctors have recommended that a sick person on Manus or Nauru be transferred to Australia for medical care, the medevac legislation gives the minister (in this case, Peter Dutton) three days to approve or deny that transfer. We’ve got more detail on how the medevac bill works here, if you want to brush up.

In short, though, it’s not a threatening bill: it’s a life saving one. “Even for someone who appears to struggle with basic facts as much as [Peter Dutton], the legislation is very straightforward,” is how Labor leader Anthony Albanese put it today, pointing out that none of the government’s fears about the bill (weakened borders, a flood of people being transferred to Australia) have actually come to pass.

“Why do we support this legislation? We support it because of our commitment to basic humanity,” Albanese said. “A basic proposition that says these people are our responsibility. A basic principle that you shouldn’t just turn your back on suffering.”

Last night, Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie made a similar point, calling on Christian MPs like Scott Morrison to actually read the Bible before voting to repeal the legislation.

“Matthew 25 makes it very clear — Christians should see everyone as Christ in the flesh,” she said. “The golden rule of love your neighbour as yourself refers not just to the people you know, your neighbours, but also to those you do not know.”

And yet despite those moving calls to support asylum seekers, the government still voted to repeal the bill today.

So yeah, that’s where our government’s at right now: voting to undo one of the few compassionate things this country has done for asylum seekers of late. As we noted above, it will be a few months before the bill reaches the Senate, where Jacqui Lambie is likely to hold the deciding vote.

If you’re outraged by today’s vote, let your local MP know how you feel.