Subjects: Medical evacuation legislation.
DAVID KOCH: The Government has suffered a historic defeat, losing a crucial vote for the first time in almost 80 years. A bill to transfer sick asylum seekers to Australia has passed with the support of Labor, the Greens and the Independents. Labor MP Anthony Albanese joins me now from Canberra.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning.
KOCH: Morning to you. Scott Morrison refused to budge on this refugee policy, arguing it would weaken our borders. Labor and the crossbench pushed the bill through. Why is it the right decision?
ALBANESE: It is the right decision Kochie because what it does is codify what the Government itself says is existing practice. There are 900 approximately people here now who have been brought here for health reasons or are family of people who have been brought here for health reasons. We ensured with the legislation that was carried yesterday that it would only apply to those people who are already on Manus and Nauru.
KOCH: So there’s no new ones coming into Manus and Nauru …
KOCH: … can’t make themselves crook or injure themselves and get a trip to Australia and all the rights that that brings?
ALBANESE: That is absolutely right Kochie because what Australians are concerned about is that these people have been there for more than five years now and we have seen deaths in those locations and we’ve seen many people – common sense tells you that being in indefinite detention for more than half a decade is having a huge impact.
KOCH: Some of them refuse to go and get resettled elsewhere. You know, they are sticking their heels in saying: “No I don’t want to go to these other countries, I just want to go to Australia’’. Well beggars can’t be choosers you know. We decide all that, don’t we?
ALBANESE: Absolutely and this doesn’t change any of that Kochie.
ALBANESE: All this says is that if two medical doctors say that someone is in need of urgent medical assistance then that application goes to the department and the Minister.
ALBANESE: If the minister has any concerns re national security provisions they are all included in there, as well as character issues, then that gets referred off to a panel that is appointed by the minister himself.
KOCH: Oh. OK.
ALBANESE: So there is still substantial ministerial discretion but what it has done is codify what needs to happen so that people who are in need of urgent medical care can get it.
KOCH: Why don’t you improve medical care on Nauru and Manus Island – build a better hospital and keep them there?
ALBANESE: Well the truth is Kochie that we have seen for example someone die from septicemia. That is something that would be very extraordinary if it happened in Australia and the fact is the Government itself has brought literally hundreds of people here for medical assistance and indeed they asserted that yesterday that there was no need for this. What this does is codify it, but it does it in a way that ensures that there are no pull factors. The only pull factor here is Scott Morrison’s overblown rhetoric …
KOCH: You are starting to get political now. I think you have explained it. Appreciate your time.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much Kochie.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.