The National Justice Project today condemned Peter Dutton for wasting tax payer money on yet another lawyers’ picnic by launching a spiteful appeal to the High Court to try to stop sick refugees and asylum seekers from getting urgent medical care.
At the end of August, the Commonwealth government was slapped down for dragging sick refugees and asylum seekers through pointless and expensive legal battles. Instead of accepting this decision it has lodged an appeal to the High Court.*
CEO of the National Justice Project, Adjunct Professor George Newhouse, said today that Minister Dutton had argued that section 494AB of the Migration Act stopped the Federal Court from having the power to hear these cases.
Earlier this month, the Federal Court rejected that argument.
Newhouse said the case has critical importance if the Medevac law is revoked because without Medevac refugees and asylum seekers have no choice but to fight for their rights through the courts.
“We were very pleased to see the Medevac law passed because using a legal process to access life-saving medical treatment is incredibly inefficient. However, before Medevac the courts were the only option for countless refugees and asylum seekers when the Federal government refused to provide urgent medical assistance for people under Australia’s care.
“Minister Dutton tells us all the time that no one is above the law. But in launching these appeals, the government is trying to evade its legal obligations to hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers by making it harder for them to access justice in Australian courts.
“That is a situation that would be deemed utterly unacceptable by most Australians. It is equally as unacceptable for those people who Australia has forcibly taken to Nauru or Papua New Guinea and who can’t access effective health care without Australian approval or intervention” he said. “It proves that the government thinks that it should be above the law when it suits it”.
The Medevac Bill became law in March 2019 and allowed for a transparent process through which off-shore detainees could be brought to Australia for medical treatment.
Proposed changes to the law threaten the health of asylum seekers and represent a return to the days of litigation to get people the medical care they need.
* The decision being appealed is FRM17 v Minister for Home Affairs  FCAFC 148 https://www.judgments.fedcourt.gov.au/judgments/Judgments/fca/full/2019/2019fcafc0148.