Prime Minister Scott Morrison has accused asylum seekers of faking illness to get to Australia under Medevac laws on the grounds that few have been treated in hospital.
Mr Morrison backed the claims of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton that taxpayers are being “conned” by the laws that he wants to repeal.
“Well, of the 135 people that actually came under this arrangement, only 13 were hospitalised,” Mr Morrison told Perth radio station 6PR on Tuesday.
“So, I will let you make up your own mind.
“We didn’t think those laws were necessary when they were introduced.
“We did think it would undermine our border protection regime.”
Earlier, Mr Dutton said Australians have been “conned” over the refugee medical transfer laws that were passed by the Labor Party, the Greens and the crossbench last year.
“This was only ever about bringing people from Manus and Nauru – not for medical attention – but because that was the back-door way to bring people to Australia,” Mr Dutton said.
But Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally said it was surprising Mr Dutton was claiming people were faking illnesses when the system requires him to approve the medical evacuations.
“Everyone who came through Medevac was approved by Minister Dutton or medical doctors he appointed,” she told The New Daily.
“Medevac allows sick people, including people with a mental illness, to get health care – whether in hospital or as an outpatient.”
Peter Dutton could have been in Parliament to commemorate the National Apology to Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse…
Instead, he was on TV denying that he’s lost control of our borders (as well as crying wolf over Medevac) pic.twitter.com/J3QvJVM0Ej
— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) October 22, 2019
Evidence to Senate estimates this week has also revealed the Morrison government has spent $30 million and is employing 100 staff to detain just one family on Christmas Island –The family is fighting deportation to Sri Lanka.
The extraordinary cost of housing a Tamil family from the central Queensland town of Biloela was outlined in Senate estimates hearings on Monday night, as officials defended the decision to fly the family on a chartered jet to the island.
The decision to detain the family came despite the fact there are 62,000 unlawful non-citizens living in the community.
Officials confirmed the reason for this was simply to remove the family from national protests about their plight.
The protests had been deemed a safety issue for the family, protesters and police.
During Senate estimates, Greens senator Nick McKim questioned “so we spent in the region of $30 million to detain four people for a couple of months. Is that right?”.
Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram made the point that the facility wasn’t expressly established to detain four people.
“But what you’ve said is factually inaccurate and there are four people there now,” he said.
Mr Outram said national protests, including at Melbourne airport, were the reason to take Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their Australian-born daughters Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2 to Christmas Island after the courts slapped an injunction on the family’s deportation.
“None of the detention centres are suitable for children. I have to think about safety and security. This case has been quite emotive.” he said.
“The temporary accommodation [in Darwin], frankly, wasn’t suitable from a safety point of view,” he said.
“Nor did I want to take them to Melbourne, so I took the decision [that] the best place to position them would be Christmas Island.”
Senator McKim repeatedly asked: “Why are they in detention at all? Why are they not at home in Biloela?”
In response, the Home Affairs departmental secretary Mike Pezzullo said pending the outcome of the latest court appeal, the intention was to deport the family.
“They are unlawful non-citizens on a removal pathway,” he said.
In the hearings, Victorian Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson also asked if Priya and Nadesalingam were told that if they had children in Australia they would also be deported if the family’s refugee claims were found not to be genuine.
Mr Dutton has previously claimed the couple’s two children are “anchor babies” designed to boost their citizenship hopes.