The Morrison government’s plan to tear up asylum seeker medical evacuation laws has passed the first hurdle of parliament.
The Coalition used its majority to clear the bill through the lower house on Thursday, but faces a tougher test in the Senate.
The legislation will be scrutinised by a Senate committee, and is expected to come up for debate in November.
Eventually, Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie is likely to cast the pivotal vote.
The crossbencher has formed a loose alliance with the Centre Alliance minor party – which opposes repealing the laws – but is not bound to vote with them.
Labor’s attempted amendments to the repeal – which condemned Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton for inaccurately describing the medical transfer process – were voted down in the lower house on Wednesday night.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus shared a story of an asylum seeker family who were first sent to Nauru in 2014.
The family included a mother, her young son, an older son and his wife.
In 2018, after four years in detention the older son took his life, causing a spiral in the mental health of his family members.
Lawyers for the family contacted Mr Dutton five times without reply, asking for her clients to be evacuated to undergo medical treatment.
“It should not take many months, a suicide, multiple suicide attempts, countless medical reports and an application to the Federal Court of Australia for vulnerable people in Australia’s care to receive urgent medical assistance,” Mr Dreyfus said during debate on the bill.
“The solicitor, the judge and the doctors were doing their job. The medevac laws merely require this callous and incompetent minister to do his.”
The medevac process was enacted against Mr Dutton’s will earlier this year, when the government lacked a majority.
Crossbench MP Rebekha Sharkie has urged the Prime Minister to consider his Christian values in his approach, reminding him that Christ was a refugee.
Ms Sharkie said repealing the medevac laws will cause needless harm to those needing medical help.
“It is quite simply a wicked thing we are doing in this place,” she said.
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