Medevac ruling likely to be appealed as Dutton warns of more boat arrivals

Medevac ruling likely to be appealed as Dutton warns of more boat arrivals

A ruling that an appointment is not required before a doctor can determine that an asylum seeker needs treatment in Australia is likely to be appealed as Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton warns the decision will lead to more boat arrivals.

On Tuesday Justice Mordy Bromberg ruled in the Federal Court that under last year’s “Medevac” amendments the Migration Act 1958 doctors can make an assessment remotely on the basis of an asylum seeker’s medical records.

Although the Government contended that a personal relationship between the doctor and the asylum seeker is implicitly required, Justice Bromberg said this was “unpersuasive” and was “outweighed by the contrary indications”, including that “it has not been demonstrated that even in an ordinary domestic setting … personal engagement between doctor and patient is a necessary condition of legitimacy for a medical assessment.”

Despite the ruling, the Home Affairs Minister has indicated the Government will seek to appeal the decision.

“I would be keen to see this appealed to the High Court,” Mr Dutton told radio broadcaster 2GB on Thursday.

“We already provide medical assistance … but we aren’t going to be forced into a position where two doctors, two random GPs, can sign off not having seen a patient for them to come here.”

David Burke, a senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre who worked on the case, denied that assessments based on medical records were out of the ordinary.

“This is something that is done every day in Australian in hospitals, where surgeons and specialists are recommending treatment for patients on the basis of detailed medical records and x-rays and lab tests,” Mr Burke said.

Mr Dutton has also claimed that the ruling could have wide applicability and increase attempted boat arrivals.

“[The ruling] may have applicability to many hundreds of people, which has certainly the potential to restart boats and that would be a travesty,” he said.

However, although the Government warned that a flood of 300 immediate transfers of asylum seekers would occur under the Medevac amendments, only 30 people have been brought to Australia from Manus Island since it was passed last year.

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