The view from Billinudgel

Debate over asylum seeker medical transfers reaches new lows
The government’s scare campaign against the crossbench bill denigrates doctors and detainees

Crossbenchers Derryn Hinch, Adam Bandt, Nick McKim, Kerryn Phelps, Tim Storer and Andrew Wilkie discussing the medical transfer bill in November. AAP Image / Mick Tsikas

Kerryn Phelps is not just a doctor: according to Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and their Murdoch mouthpieces, she is a shaker of worlds.

The crossbench bill – or rather its amendments to the government’s own bill – that Phelps is advocating for, to allow doctors rather than bureaucrats to assess sick asylum seekers for treatment in Australia, will not only dismantle the entire apparatus of border security.

It will, of course, unleash armadas of leaky boats, which our navy will be powerless to hold back, and allow hundreds – or thousands, pick any figure you like – into our pristine land.

But what is worse, the indefatigable Idaho, our dauntless Dutton, will be unable to prevent them, even though on the way they will have been transformed into rapists, murderers and paedophiles.

Well, at least it will be a change from the years of John Howard, when asylum seekers were routinely demonised as terrorists, drug dealers, carriers of disease, and even as deliberately harmful to their own children. The current libel of choice has perhaps been workshopped in focus groups, in the hope that the new deranged denigration will resonate better with women voters who have deserted the Coalition in justifiable disgust.

And apart from being arrant bullshit, it doesn’t make sense, especially when the ailing detainees are called not just rapists, murderers and paedophiles but also convicted rapists, murderers and paedophiles. If they have been convicted, they should presumably be in jail; and if they have been released, and the authorities know about it, their status would surely have been noted and recorded.

Or perhaps there is a third possibility: Morrison and Dutton, using deliberate leaks from their tame spooks as cover, are just making it up as they go along. In the past they have always used national security as the basic scare, but given that the crossbench bill would still give Dutton a veto when there was a real threat to national security, they have, as they say, moved along.

And it should be noted that Phelps, while able to change the course of Australian history with a single gesture, is not really a villain. From the government’s point of view, she is merely a well-meaning dupe, a puppet of the arch enemy Malcolm Turnbull, and is being manipulated by Bill Shorten and his treacherous Green–Labor plans to destroy the Commonwealth.

And to prove it, Dutton, after deep research, discovered that both Bob Brown and Richard Di Natale are medical doctors – just the two of them could authorise the invading hordes and there would be nothing to prevent them. Apart from the easily verifiable fact that Brown and Di Natale are no longer on the medical register and cannot authorise anything.

And, by extension, the entire medical profession is highly suspect, subject, as Tony Abbott warned, to compassion, an unforgiveable sin. Only the brutality of public servants and politicians can hold the fort.

In reality, several hundred medical evacuees are already in Australia, and Morrison is talking about a compromise (to, yet again, avoid defeat in parliament), which would presumably allow more. But don’t worry, under Morrison and Dutton you are completely safe.

Of course there are already plenty of homegrown rapists, murderers and paedophiles in Australia – some in prison, where they automatically receive the medical treatment they require. And absolutely no evidence has been produced to explain how many, if any, are on Nauru or Manus Island.

But this is a matter of national sovereignty. We will decide which rapists and paedophiles will come to this country, and the circumstances in which they come. There’s an election slogan for you.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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