PM's expensive show on Christmas Island
PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of a coalition of refugee advocates who have taken charge of the process of referring refugees from Manus Island and Nauru to Australia for medical treatment.
Mr Morrison launched an extraordinary attack on advocates who seek to help refugees come to Australia for medical treatment or assessment under Kerryn Phelps's Medevac bill passed last month with support from Labor and the Greens.
Mr Morrison took media to Christmas Island to tour the detention centre he reopened in response to the new law, which will make refugees on Manus and Nauru eligible for medical transfer to Australia if deemed necessary by a Health Advice Panel.
The tour cost an estimated $2000 per minute, according to reports.
Mr Morrison said the Christmas Island detention centre would hold adult single males from Manus or Nauru who are deemed to be in need of transfer to Australia under the new law.
Adult single females for whom a medical transfer is deemed necessary will be held at a separate camp on the other side of the island, next to the local swimming pool.
Standing inside the maximum security centre in the jungle, he said he believed that insisting refugees come to Christmas Island not the mainland for medical assessment removed an incentive for those whose motives were questionable.
It would remove an incentive for "people who thought they were going to go to Bondi for a medical consultation that is not on the agenda".
"The only bit of Australia they will see is some of these accommodation blocks in this hardened facility."
After touring the centre, Mr Morrison said he did not know how soon the Independent Health Advice Panel would be established and reiterated his concerns that the new law outsourced the authority of a government to people who were not elected.
He claimed some refugee advocates were already using the prospect of medical transfers to end offshore processing because they do not support it.
"(For them) this bill was not about frankly health it was about ending regional processing. That was the goal, this was always the goal," Mr Morrison said.
"It wasn't about kids on Nauru; the kids are off Nauru.
"It wasn't about getting people access to medical treatment. People are already accessing medical treatment.
"This was always about shutting down regional processing. It's the same group now coalescing, going and forming basically teams to go and work the system to undermine offshore processing."
Mr Morrison said he understood refugee advocates were motivated by kind hearts but said "those kind-hearted motives has resulted in some of the worst tragedies that I've seen".
"And so it's not enough to be well motivated. You have got to have the right policies and the policies they support are very dangerous and the ones they oppose have been very effective."
Mr Morrison said refugee advocates would use the same tactics they used to hasten refugees' transfer to mainland Australia during an unprecedented run of boats between 2008 and 2013, when more than 50,000 people arrived on 820 boats and an estimated 1200 people drowned.
"You will see the usual stuff. You will see the coaching, you will see the scripts, you will see all of these things we have seen all of these things before when we were going through the assessments," Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison's comments came after refugee organisations formed the Medivac Response Group, forcing the government to deal with them when processing all applications under the Labor-backed bill.
The group said would-be evacuees were now being triaged by doctors and lawyers on Manus and Nauru.
Yesterday the Medivac Response Group said it's work was based on expertise.
"Refugee sector experts have joined together to create a robust system to ensure transfers are based on medical need," said spokesman Kelly Nicholls.
"The public can see through the government's scaremongering."
Among the more than 900 people on Manus and Nauru who are eligible for medical evacuation are 57 men who do not have adverse ASIO findings but are considered dangerous. Declassified and non-identifying reports on those men from Home Affairs describe one as an accused murderer, some as suspected of sexual assault, including child sex assault, and one
whose online activity caused authorities to suspect him as a terrorist sympathiser.
HOW CHRISTMAS ISLAND HAS CHANGED
Four years since the Christmas Island detention centre was last ablaze and under the control of rioting detainees, it is now a vision of tidy art rooms and frangipani-lined walkways.
Empty and calm, it would resemble a campus if not for the prison fence on the perimeter.
It has been taken out of mothballs to receive medical transfers in a move Prime Minister Scott Morrison says "removes an incentive".
He was led past a manicured soccer pitch and a library and shown inside a classroom where asylum seekers learnt English until the centre got so crowded that every spare space was converted into dormitories.
John Howard built the North West Point detention centre for 400 people and it was empty when his government lost office in November 2007.
Yesterday Mr Morrison reminded reporters that Labor called it a white elephant, before the boats started up again in late 2008.
The centre had to be reconfigured almost weekly until it held 2111 men at its peak in November 2010.
"Every other week there was someone scaling the roof and protesting. It was a complete mess," Mr Morrison said.
Inside Blue compound, where one of several massive riots kicked off, Mr Morrison saw a kitchenette with microwave and sink and metal tables and chairs bolted to the floor.
"Breakfast is all day - people help themselves to toast, cereal, noodles," one staffer told Mr Morrison.
Each accommodation block has seven rooms, each containing two beds and an ensuite.
"They become like little villages," Mr Morrison said.
Next he saw the 24-hour three-bed medical clinic with an x-ray room, dental surgery and two GP consultation rooms.
Medical staff from contractor IHMS have been on site for three weeks. Their boss Jen
Vollmer has worked at the centre before, including in July 2013 when 4000 people arrived by boat.
"2013 was a busy year," she said.