Public Statement regarding Medivac Bill

Public Statement regarding Medivac Bill

20 February 2019

The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House) welcomes the passage of the so-called ‘medivac’ legislation establishing a new procedure for determining whether asylum seekers or recognised refugees who have been transferred by our government to Nauru or Papua New Guinea (PNG) should be brought to Australia for medical treatment.

In the five years since the establishment of regional processing centres on Nauru and PNG, hundreds of people (and their families) in need of medical treatment not available in those locations have been brought to Australia.

Decisions about whether to transfer people to Australia have been made by public servants and the Minister for Home Affairs.

These administrative decision-making arrangements have, on occasion, functioned significantly more slowly than the advice of medical personnel indicated was necessary. In addition, there have been instances where medical advice recommending transfer has been rejected for apparently non-medical reasons. In a number of cases, people have had to obtain the order of a court to secure transfers.

The new procedure will:

  • Increase the authority of medical staff in the making of decisions about transfers
  • The Minister for Home Affairs will retain authority to refuse transfers in a small range of instances, e.g. where there are security concerns
  • Expedite decision-making by imposing timeframes on decisions
  • Foundation House considers that these elements will significantly improve the current arrangements to ensure that people who are seriously ill receive the health care they need in a timely manner
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