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Medevac scrapped: Jacqui Lambie sides with government to pass repeal bill

Macquarie National News

The Senate has voted in favour of repealing the controversial medevac laws, which made it easier for refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island to travel to Australia for medical treatment.

The repeal passed 37-35 after Tasmanian independent senator Jacqui Lambie voted to repeal the laws, giving the government the numbers it needed to scrap the legislation.

But there is some confusion about how Senator Lambie came to vote for the repeal.

Ms Lambie says she reached a deal with the government, but refused to reveal the details of the deal due to “national security reasons”.

However, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann says no secret deal was made.

“Was there some sort of deal done between Jacqui Lambie and the government to scrap medevac?,” Head of Macquarie Media’s Canberra Bureau, Michael Pachi, questioned.

“Lambie says there was, Cormann, the government minister, says there wasn’t!”

The contentious medevac laws were pushed through just before the May election, when the opposition was able to rustle the numbers to get the legislation through.

Under the laws, refugees and asylum seekers were able to travel to Australia for medical treatment if two doctors deemed it was necessary.

But the federal government has long held that asylum seekers were using the laws to rort the system.

In October, Head of Operation Sovereign Borders, Craig Furini, told Senate estimates that 135 asylum seekers had been transferred to Australia for treatment, but only 13 were hospitalised upon arrival. Mr Furini said five people refused any medical treatment at all once arriving.

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Image: Tracey Nearmy / Stringer

Macquarie National News