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Morrison’s Bluff

Back in September 2014 a young man died in a Brisbane hospital after he had contracted a leg infection on Manus Island where he had been held in detention by Australian immigration authorities. Brisbane Coroner Mr Terry Ryan found his death followed a series of clinical errors and delays, including a lack of antibiotics on Manus Island to treat tropical infections and a failure by Australian immigration officials to urgently grant a doctor’s request for the twenty-four year old asylum seeker to be transferred to Australia for life saving treatment.

The coroner found the Australian Government had not met its responsibility to detainees such as Mr Hamid Khazaei to provide health care that was “broadly comparable” to that available in Australia.

The coroner recommended a systemic overhaul of healthcare responses in offshore detention, including a new policy to allow doctors on the ground, rather than Canberra officials, to approve medical transfers.

So why raise this matter now, we all know that the medical welfare of asylum seekers held indefinitely on Manus and Nauru has been a highly toxic political issue for some years. The coalition government go to great lengths to argue that healthcare available to asylum seekers on these islands is of a high standard and equivalent to that available in regional Australia. But then we have organisations like MSF saying it was deeply concerned for the health and well-being of patients and described the mental health situation of asylum seekers and refugees on the island (Nauru) as “beyond desperate” : MSF were then ejected from Nauru.

More than 4700 Australian doctors and medical professionals have signed a new appeal asking Prime Minister Scott Morrison to reconsider his refusal to transfer sick refugee children and their families off Nauru (and Manus) for medical care.

When Dr Kerryn Phelps was elected to the federal seat of Wentworth, she took it as a personal crusade to bring the children on Nauru to Australia (or New Zealand who have consistently offered to take 150 asylum seekers a year since 2013) with no further delay and to streamline the medical evacuation process. As had been noted by the Brisbane Coroner, in the Khazaei case, there is a very opaque system in place that involves bureaucrats in Canberra who will frequently override medical advise when it comes to evacuating a patient (or they will send people to Port Moresby or Taiwan rather than bring them here).

The parliament was due to knock-off for the summer holidays last Thursday but before that occurred, a Bill was passed in the Senate to change and streamline the medivac process and leave it to two medical professionals to authorise a medical evacuation with the minister having ultimate discretion : in circumstances where the minister went against medical opinions and disallowed the medical evacuation he or she would be answerable to the parliament. Clearly, in these circumstances the minister would be chancing his or her arm to go against professional medical advice.

In the Senate, there was much filibustering and waffling to avoid this Bill being passed and going before the House of Representatives. Morrison had a win by shutting down the House early so that the Bill could not be presented or voted on.

Clearly the system of medical evacuation needed upgrading, the Brisbane coroner noted that, but the coalition are against any change and they have suggested that to improve the medical evacuation system will lead to detainees engaging in self-harm to expedite an evacuation : does that mean that the current cumbersome system discourages self-harm ?

Scott Morrison got a bit shirty about the proposed legislative changes saying in an intemperate and rather bizarre and impromptu news conference that :

“I will do everything in my power to ensure that these suggested changes … never see the light of day,” Mr Morrison said. “I will do whatever I can. I will fight them using whatever tool or tactic I have available to me to ensure that we do not undermine our border protection laws.”

Why do you think that our prime minister would say this, does he believe that taking such decisions out of the hands of unqualified bureaucrats and giving them to doctors will really undermine our border protection laws rather than just save lives ?

It seems that what really is getting up Morrison’s nose is that over eighty percent of the detainees on Nauru and Manus have been found to be genuine refugees and as such can claim protection and sanctuary if they come to Australia and this is the point. The whole offshore detention policy was designed to get these people out of Australia and beyond the reach of Australian law and jurisdiction and Morrison is worried that, as the majority of these people are suffering from undiagnosed mental illnesses, they will all end up here, assert their refugee status, claim protection as they are entitled to do and Bob’s your uncle.

Morrison could very well take out his frustrations on the half-smart lawyers who devised the offshore detention fiasco by adopting what Oliver Hardy would say to Stan Laurel when he had stuffed up again; “Well there’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.”


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  1. Diannaart

    It seems that what really is getting up Morrison’s nose is that over eighty percent of the detainees on Nauru and Manus have been found to be genuine refugees and as such can claim protection and sanctuary if they come to Australia and this is the point.


  2. New England Cocky

    The comments above by Scat Morriscum demonstrate that he expounds all the principles that identify a white supremacist neo-colonial fascist “(male) God-fearing” Christian. Perhaps like his National$ political colleagues, he cherry-picks Christian principles to suit his personal ideology. Certainly the story of the Good Samaritan has been overlooked.

  3. Adrianne Haddow

    I think Morrison perceives the Fortress Australia policy as his party’s legacy. It is, after all, the only strength the LNP can show.
    It’s easy to be strong against people you have detained in gulags, deprived of hope of freedom, monitoring their every move, preventing them from seeking freedom anywhere, even a third country, not vetted by you.
    What a legacy!

    The other LNP policies are not particularly noteworthy. Tripled our global debt in 5 years… when the world economy was growing steadily, that takes some serious economic mismanagement. An energy policy that allows export of gas for less value than our own citizens are required to pay. The defence spending on never-never aircraft and submarines made by foreign companies, and a plethora of other ‘please the mates’ policies.

    I find the secure borders theme exceptionally galling, when this government has sold out our country’s sovereignty through ‘free’ trade agreements that overwhelmingly benefit off-shore corporations, has given away the country’s mineral wealth to foreign companies for a pittance, given away the jobs, that are available, to 457 visa workers, brought here at the behest of those same lobbying, donating corporations. They are willing to ruin our environment, degrade our forests and oceans, allow pollution and overuse of our most precious resource, water.

    And then they expect us to believe that a handful of asylum seekers are the ones who are putting our sovereignty at risk.

  4. helvityni

    Thank the Lord for caring people like you Terence, Kerryn Phelps and Burnside…

    The heartless politics of our Government depress me, how cruel is it to keep some refugees over five long years on harsh hellhole islands, and what’s almost unbelievable: not even let them go to NZ…

    Labor should stop agreeing with LNP on issues like this, there’s too much me-tooism going on…

  5. helvityni

    Top post , Adrianne Haddow, totally agree with you.

  6. Diannaart

    Agree, Adrianne

    While corporates trample over Australian sovereignty, the LNP whistle up boat people.



    So what will Labor do?

    Labor believes in strong borders, offshore processing, regional resettlement, and turnbacks when safe to do so because we know it saves lives at sea. This is the policy Labor took to the last Federal Election and remains our policy.

    But the difference is that Labor will do it more humanely:

    Labor’s resolve to prevent deaths at sea is matched by a commitment to a humane and compassionate approach to asylum seekers which enables refugees to progress their claims safely and securely.

    This is why Labor took commitments to the last Federal Election including:

    Increasing Australia’s annual humanitarian intake of refugees to 27,000 by 2025 to address the global humanitarian crisis;
    Providing $450 million in funding over three years to support the important work of the UNHCR both globally and in >South East Asia and the Pacific;
    Appointing an independent children’s advocate to represent the interests of children seeking asylum and legislating to impose mandatory reporting of child abuse;
    Reintroducing the ‘90 day rule’ into the Migration Act, in addition to references to the UN Refugees Convention;
    Reinstating access to the Refugee Review Tribunal and abolish the IAA established by the Abbott Government; and
    Abolishing Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) which keep people in a permanent state of limbo and placing those found to be genuine refugees on permanent protection visas.

  7. Shaun Newman

    For the Coalition, the latest Newspoll result entrenches the view that an early election would be preferable as for the third month in a row they are 10 points behind in the poll. The longer the delay the worse things will get for them, they could be all but wiped out if the situation lasts till May 19′ especially if a week is a long time in politics. The new Prime Minister is also on the nose in our egalitarian, secular society with his religious fanaticism and his pretense to be a daggy Dad.

  8. Frank Smith

    Shaun, they are hanging on waiting for another Tampa to sail over the horizon or another conjured up “children overboard” saga. They were the tactics of the Lying Rodent who is still revered by this mob of grafting blue-tied born-to-rule fools.
    Great post Adrianne – I fully agree.

  9. paul walter

    Frank Smith.

    Labor backed down on decryption for the same reason, something went wrong they’d be blamed.

    Labor has been wedged for nearly twenty years on the two headed creature of “border protection” and “national security”, which rely on political and media stoking.

    It is our era’s version of Mcarthyism and the red bogey.

  10. Max Gross

    I have no doubt that Pastor Promo and his RWNJ congregants are praying for a “terrorist incident”. Stand by for some convenient and well televised AFP raids as the day of historic LNP electoral erasure draws nearer

  11. terence mills

    A shameful commentary on the performance in our Senate last Thursday as the Morrison government filibustered to avoid passing this legislation :

    Walking really slowly. Speaking really slowly. Asking for toilet breaks. These were just some of the primary school tactics the Morrison government used for hours in the Senate on the last parliamentary sitting day of the year. All to avoid giving basic medical care to sick refugees and suffering the humiliation of being the first government in 90 years to lose a vote on legislation in the House of Representatives.

    Watching the absurdity unfold it would have been easy to forget that behind all the politics and self-preservation, people’s lives were actually on the line.

  12. Graham

    While I agree with most of the comments here it does the cause no good by abusing the Prime Minister or anyone else. Play the ball not the man.

    If you support bringing refugees to Australia then you need to provide arguments as to why it will work and won’t backfire (I’ve given some reasons elsewhere as to why the situation now is different from previously).

    Many, many, people = perhaps most, will disagree with bringing refugees here. There is very strong support for the current policies. You can only win an argument by being clear and concise and by having the supporting facts.

    Getting down in the gutter will not help.

  13. terence mills


    I’ve re-read my article and I don’t agree that I was playing the man : I merely quoted what Morrison said and his resistance to bringing sick people and their families to Australia based on advice from Healthcare professionals as was recommended by the Coroner in the tragic case of Hamid Khazaei.

    In so saying, I believe that the coalition have mishandled this situation and that whilst the policy of boat turnbacks has worked and is working, I believe that the policy of indefinite detention on offshore islands has been a failure and achieved nothing, it needs to be wound up.

    The remaining detainees can be resettled as part of the US and NZ options and others can be brought here.
    One of the reasons why the international community have been so loathe to resettle our asylum seekers and refugees is precisely because we won’t settle any ourselves.

  14. Graham

    Hi Terrance, my comment was in relation to some of the other comments not your original article. I think that it is important that we win the argument on merit not on who can be dirtiest.

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