Most doctors, by nature and nurture, are kind-hearted souls. Much of their lives are spent in the pursuit of helping people. And they generally will do so with little to no consideration of a person’s criminal background…or their potential to commit future serious crimes.
This has Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton worried.
Dutton is calling on Labor to oppose a bill to change the way medical transfers are processed for asylum seekers in offshore detention.
Dutton says we can’t trust doctors
It’s become pretty clear that Labor is in support of the bill, which has already passed the senate and will be voted on in the lower house sometime this month.
The bill would give permission for any two doctors to request a medical transfer for an individual in offshore detention in order to get the medical assistance they require from the mainland.
After the request, a minister would need to review the case within 24 hours. If the request is rejected, it would move to an independent health advice panel for review.
So where does government approval fall into this? Well, that’s Dutton’s primary concern. He says such an arrangement will ‘dismantle’ offshore detention, according to the Australian Associated Press, giving the final say to doctors.
He told reporters on Thursday, ‘Dr Bob Brown and Dr Richard Di Natale, potentially, can provide the advice,’ drilling in the fact that under this bill, the Coalition has no authority. And the peace-driven Greens could choose to leave Australia’s doors wide open for anyone with a mild cough or headache to walk through.
Shorten refuses to hear the facts
Dutton hasn’t kept his anguish a secret. He told radio 2GB that after looking at the bill, he warned the government ‘in a matter of weeks everybody [on] Nauru and Manus, essentially regardless of their medical condition, would be in Australia, and that if you do that, the boats will restart.’
He also believed opposition leader Bill Shorten had been briefed on the dangers, insisting ‘The agencies have told him that this bill would be a disaster, that it would restart boats’.
Of course, this ended up not being the case, with one of Shorten’s spokeswomen accusing Dutton of lying about the briefing.
Dutton conceded, saying he had wrongly ‘assumed’ Shorten accepted the offer to receive the briefing. He rightfully added he was ‘astounded to learn [Shorten] has not done so’.
Apparently, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is still awaiting Shorten’s response to his invitation for the security briefing.
Dutton thinks the Labor leader’s hesitancy is ‘an alarming failure of leadership’.
John Coyne, head of the border security program at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, agrees with Dutton’s negative sentiment, ‘especially given how controversial to the Australian people the issue is’, Coyne said.
Aussie border force shares Dutton’s concerns
Dutton isn’t the only one concerned with the contents of this bill. As AAP reports, ASIO and the Australian Border Force have released notes that warn the bill will disable the government’s ability to conduct proper security threat assessments of mainland transfers.
The Department of Home Affairs, as reported to The Australian, adds the troubling threat of 1000 asylum seekers from Manus Island and Nauru being given the tick of approval to come to Australia within weeks.
Wand without proper security checks, there’s no way of knowing whether these new arrivals are molesters, rapists, or even murderers.
Shorten has dismissed these concerns, which PM Morrison has also raised. His response to Morrison’s fear was that he should be ‘ashamed of himself’.
‘The fact of the matter is people who have done those crimes don’t get the refugee status unless the government’s missed them when they’ve assessed them as refugees,’ he told reporters.
So if there is that small chance of error, wouldn’t it be worth a second thorough check? After all, it’s the safety of Australians that hangs in the balance.
National security isn’t worth taking a chance on. And the ‘benefit of the doubt’ approach should never be administered to a border control regime.
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