EDITORIAL EXCERPT: Morrison gears up to punish refugees after #MediVacBill

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

In an historic triumph for humanity, the Morrison Government was yesterday defeated on the floor of the House. Today, we saw the 'Medical Evacuation Bill' (Medivac Bill) pass the Senate.


It was a courageous move by Labor and the crossbench to take responsibility for the harm Australia has caused so many innocent people and their families in our offshore gulags, and at least allow them to receive medical care. After all, even enemies in wartime are entitled to medical assistance.

And it will be cause for celebration if the Medivac Bill results in finally bringing the sick and broken people on Manus and Nauru to Australia.

Of course, there is still the possibility the Bill will be hijacked and dismantled by the sheer, ruthless persistence of the Coalition Government, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. In fact, as these two worthy contenders compete for the title of Orchestrator of Cruelty, the horror is continuing.


The Government has already indicated that the Bill may be "unconstitutional" and that it may, therefore, challenge the Bill in the High Court.

The High Court is where this Coalition Government has taken every single case of illness on Manus Island and Nauru in its ceaseless efforts to stop asylum seekers – even children – receiving medical care.

Morrison also announced he will reopen Christmas Island Detention Centre to deal with the "influx" of refugees — and ramp up attacks on the ALP (naturally) for daring to show empathy towards asylum seekers.

Not to be outdone, Dutton has invoked Border Force to put in place "contingency measures".

Indeed, never one to allow empathy to interfere with his commitment to brutality, way in advance of this Bill, Dutton warned us

“It’s essential that people realise that the hard-won success of the last few years could be undone overnight by a single act of compassion."

It has taken six long years of unrivalled cruelty in offshore detention to get to the Medivac Bill and still this Government is happy to prevent people fleeing horrific circumstances, persecution and death from seeking refuge on our shores. Apparently, the political gains that the "border protection" rhetoric creates trump any empathy for one's fellow man. 


Meanwhile, on the islands in which asylum seekers are imprisoned, the staggering cruelty of the Morrison Government continues to unfold each day.

Refugee advocates, Tim McKenna from Vinnies and Ione Lewis of Therapy4Refugees, have provided IA with many, many cases of suffering (confirmed by several advocacy groups).

Here are just two current examples of people waiting to be transferred to Australia on medical grounds (actual names have been withheld):

Ali has been in Pacific International Hospital (PIH) in Port Moresby since 25 November 2018. He was removed from Manus Island by medical flight. He has collapsed veins and an IV line in his neck.


Mohamed has been in PIH from Manus for 11 days. He is dizzy when horizontal and has a fever. He hit his head in the bathroom (unsupervised) and has a concussion.


Neither man can stand independently.


Ali cannot speak.


These men have been under the Department of Immigration/Home Affairs microscope for over five years. They are known quantities — unlike, for example, the visa overstayers who fly in.

Refugee Action Collective member and advocate liaison officer for Doctors4Refugees Margaret Sinclair had this to add:

There’s long established medical knowledge of a causal link between prolonged detention and clinical depression. Many medical records note 'detention fatigue' as early as 2013.


It’s counterintuitive to medically treat people while keeping them in the same conditions or situation that made them sick in the first place. 


There have been 12 deaths in Australia's offshore detention facilities on Manus Island and Nauru, including seven suicides, one murder and one preventable death due to "compounding errors" in health care.

Sources confirm there are currently 25 severely ill Manus men in Port Moresby hospitals.

Refugee advocate Amanda Perram told IA:

Approximately 600 people remain on Manus Island and 420 on Nauru (including four children awaiting transfer to the U.S.).


Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) are calling on all from Manus and Nauru to be evacuated.

Defence Minister and Minister for the House Christopher Pyne was asked several times by Barrie Cassidy on Insiders to explain the Government's claim that approximately 1,000 people on Manus Island and Nauru were so unwell that they would "qualify" to travel to Australia under the Medivac Bill.

Pyne replied: They could all qualify."

And then immediately added:

"Because of this Government's policies, we've stopped the boats, because of temporary protection visas, because of offshore processing, because of boat turn backs..."

Blah, blah, blah, boats, borders, walls — you get the picture.

Amanda Perram summarises the heart of the matter perfectly:

"People forget what this is really about. Our Government is trying to stop innocent people – to whom they have deliberately caused harm by indefinitely detaining them – from getting medical help. It's psychopathic!"

While it It is gratifying that the Morrison Government was defeated on the floor of the House and the Medivac Bill has been passed in the Senate, it won't be time for celebration until this border protection policy, or perhaps this Government, is finished.

The is only half the story! The complete version of this editorial may be read in the IA members only area HERE

Access the members only area – and the many other subscriber extras – by subscribing to Independent Australia HERE.

You can follow executive editor Michelle Pini on Twitter& @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter at @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

Independent Australia presents Julian Burnside AO QC — Australian barrister, tireless human rights and refugee advocate, and author. At this special Melbourne event on 6 March 2019, Julian will expose the truth about Australia's border protection policy. Proceeds will be donated to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC). Book tickets HERE.

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