Rebekha Sharkie: Why I Quoted The Bible During The Medevac Bill Repeal
As a politician you see some pretty nefarious tactics in the scramble for power.
One of the lowest moments for me was when the then newly minted Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced he was reopening the Christmas Island detention centre the day medevac law was passed in February.
No boats came because the medevac laws were ring-fenced to asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. There is no ‘pull-factor’ and to suggest otherwise and use the plight of desperate people for political advantage is shameful.
The medevac laws remain a medical solution to a medical problem for ONLY those people on Manus and Nauru. The laws put medical professionals at the centre of decision-making but with an appropriate veto power for the Minister.
These laws are working. The Minister has only chosen to use his power of veto on a few occasions.
As of earlier this week 96 asylum seekers had applied for a transfer for special medical treatment and 88 applications have been approved by the Minister.
Twenty one applications refused by the Minister were then referred to the Independent Health Advice Panel (IHAP) with eight being approved and 13 knocked back.
So far only 40 of these 96 sick human beings have actually been transferred to onshore detention centres, but that delaying tactic is another issue.
What we have is a relatively small number of people getting the medical help they desperately need from a government that has detained them and has a duty to provide appropriate care.
The majority of applicants are seeking specialist assistance for severe mental health issues.
Indefinite detention is the nub of the issue.
More than six years on, the legacy from Manus and Nauru is haunting us as a nation. It is also an incredibly costly policy. We spend about a billion dollars per year on Manus and Nauru while consistently refusing New Zealand’s resettlement offer.
In the future I have no doubt we will look back on how we acted and be appalled.
The fact we are held up as a model example of how to treat refugees by the President of the United States is chilling.
Australia is a secular democracy so I don’t make a habit of mentioning faith in my political life. However, I think it is fairly well known that the Prime Minister and many other Ministers are comfortable discussing faith in the Parliament.
I was raised to believe we should all strive to be the “Good Samaritan” towards those less fortunate so I find the Government’s attempts to repeal the medevac laws deeply distressing.
I felt it necessary to refer to Matthew 25: 31-46 in my recent speech opposing the repealing of these laws to remind those in the Government who publicly identify as Christian that Christ himself told his followers to love their neighbours.
Who are our neighbours? They are not just those we know and love and value. Our neighbours are those who are poor, hungry, sick, homeless and fleeing persecution.
The world today is experiencing massive displacement of people due to war and poverty.
Nations with the lion’s share of global resources are not managing this situation as well as they could and should. Australia spends less than 0.21% of our gross national income on international aid to help people flourish in their own countries, down from 0.32% in the 2016-17 financial year.
Frankly I think it is the height of hypocrisy for this Government to say how important it is to legislate freedom of religion when they are not focused on practising a major tenet of Christianity: to love our neighbours.
The medevac laws have passed the Lower House but the Senate has referred the legislation to their Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for consideration.
The reporting date is 18 October this year. Regardless of the committee’s recommendations my Centre Alliance Senators will be opposing the repealing of these laws because these laws are working. They provide a temporary transfer to facilitate a medical pathway for a medical issue.
If the Government is successful in repealing this legislation, it will cause much harm. Needless harm. Unnecessary harm. It would be quite simply a wicked thing.