Dutton warns Labor on medical transfers; Labor lawyer advised on Kerryn Phelps medics bill
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has warned Greens founder Bob Brown and leader Richard Di Natale could be the doctors that give the green-light to asylum seekers being transferred of Manus Island under a bill before House of Representatives next week.
“Doctors including Dr Bob Brown and Dr Richard Di Natale, potentially, can provide the advice,” Mr Dutton said.
He urged Bill Shorten to listen to security agencies rather than taking its advice from barrister Matthew Albert, who has links to the Labor Party.
“I see some suburban lawyer has provided advice, an activist in this space, a Labor Party member. Well I wouldn’t take that advice Mr Shorten I would take the advice of the experts over the Labor lawyer activist,” he said.
A spokesman for the Greens rubbished Mr Dutton’s claims, saying Dr Brown and Senator Di Natale were no longer practising doctors. He said the panel of doctors would have to be appointed by the immigration minister and nominated by one of Australia’s peak medical bodies.
Senator Di Natale said Mr Dutton was making things up.
“How much can this bloke stuff up in a day? Neither Bob nor I are currently registered so we couldn’t sign off a transfer. To think this bloke was making daily decisions about the fate of innocent people. He’ll say anything to distract from the fact that his government’s policies are a disgrace,” Senator Di Natale said.
A spokesman from the Opposition Leader’s office denied Mr Dutton’s claim Mr Shorten had been briefed by security agencies on the bill.
Mr Dutton said the boats will restart if Mr Shorten supports the bill to put medical transfers in the hands of two doctors.
He said security agencies had warned the passage of the bill would see all asylum seekers from Manus Island and Nauru come to Australia within weeks.
“If they come here overnight from Manus or Nauru, if a Labor government is elected or this Phelps bill passes, then you will see people paying money, hopping on boats. And we already know that the people smugglers think with a change in government they are back in business,” he said.
Labor lawyer advised on medics bill
Earlier, Labor frontbencher Jim Chalmers defended the “pretty clear” legal advice on a proposed bill to put medical transfers from Manus Island and Nauru in the hands of doctors, despite it coming from a barrister who has links to the Labor Party.
Mr Chalmers said Melbourne barrister Matthew Albert — who has advised the bill would give the immigration minister discretion to block a medical transfer — was a “very accomplished lawyer”.
Mr Albert was named on a Victorian Labor Party policy committee in the 2015 state conference. He is also identified as a founding member of Open Labor, a group dedicated to more democratisation within the party.
“By the sounds of it he is a very accomplished lawyer, he is an expert in these matters and we have our advice and we think that that advice is right,” Mr Chalmers told Sky News.
“The most important thing here is the ministerial discretion. And what our advice shows and what others have concluded is that when a minister retains a right to refuse people’s entry to Australia on the basis of national security considerations then that allows us to maintain that strong border protection position that we have in the Labor Party.”
The bill based on amendments from independent MP Kerryn Phelps could pass the parliament next week if it is supported by Labor and all independents except Bob Katter. It would allow the transfer of asylum seekers to Australia based on the advice of two doctors, with the minister allowed to override the transferral if there are national security concerns.
Mr Chalmers accused the government of “politicising” security agencies after The Australian this morning revealed advice from the Department of Home Affairs showing the offshore processing of asylum seekers would be dismantled if the bill passed the parliament and become law.
“We believe in very strong border protection measures. That means offshore processing, it means turnbacks, it means regional resettlement,” Mr Chalmers said.
“But we think it is possible to take care of sick people within the confines of a very strict and very strong border protection policy.
“And I think it is really concerning to see on the front page of the papers this morning a classified report from one of our agencies and I think that Scott Morrison has some questions to answer about the leaking of that material.”
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