"There is no form of this bill that is acceptable," Mr Morrison said. "We cannot have Australia’s borders determined by panels of medical professionals."
Phelps tells The Saturday Paper her bill is based on long-established procedure in remote medicine, as practised, for example, by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
“A doctor in a remote location is doing their best to look after patients with their available resources,” she says.” If there comes a point where they can’t, they contact someone else, usually a specialist.”
Depending on the advice that comes back, they might either continue to treat the patient in situ or, if recommended, medically evacuate the patient for more intensive care.
But, given the unique sensitivities of the asylum seeker situation, there would be safeguards in the new process. The proposed legislation includes a specific power for the minister to refuse a transfer on national security grounds. It also includes a provision allowing the minister to override a transfer recommendation by those initial treating doctors.
Says Phelps: “If the minister thinks it’s just a couple of activist doctors trying to game the system, then it goes to a separate, expert medical panel comprising the Commonwealth chief medical officer and nominees of the AMA and the [relevant medical] colleges, and then within 24 hours, they would give advice to the minister on whether or not the transfer should proceed.”
"For Nauru, I'd say 30 per cent [would need medical treatment in Australia]," Dr Martin said. "After five or six years of this effective neglect, anyone who was healthy at the beginning will have picked up things that normally in Australia you would go have a test for."
In its attempt the cajole the crossbench and bludgeon Labor the government is using a mix of tactics.
Asylum seekers and refugees are waiting as long as five years for specialist medical treatment even when it has been formally recommended by the Australian government’s contracted doctors, new data has revealed.
A spokesman for Shayne Neumann, Labor's immigration spokesman, said: "Peter Dutton is lying when he claims Labor has received an intelligence briefing on the Phelps bill."
It should not take legal intervention for doctor’s orders to be followed. That’s why the home affairs legislation amendment (miscellaneous measures) bill 2018, introduced by Kerryn Phelps last year and supported by the crossbench, ALP and the Greens, is such crucial, life-saving legislation.
Shorten said the government was lining up a U-turn to avoid a defeat in parliament, “but I’m not going to be a purist. If they get to an acceptable outcome I’m not going to judge their motivation.
“Labor said that we want to make sure that independent medical advice is taken more seriously. We will have a look at what the government’s proposing.
Legal advice from Melbourne barrister Matthew Albert says the security definition used in the bill is strong enough to give the immigration minister of the day enough discretion to turn away an asylum seeker if he or she presents a threat to border integrity.
Mr Morrison’s proposal does not specify a time limit for reviews. And it will not be enshrined in legislation - meaning it could be changed for any reason at any time.
The cross-bench/Labor Bill is the only enforceable mechanism that ensures people get lifesaving medical treatment urgently.