INDI MP Cathy McGowan risks upsetting a large percentage of her support base in the closing stages of her six-year parliamentary career by siding with the government in opposing a bill making it easier for sick refugees to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment.
Her office has been inundated with more than 400 letters, emails and other contacts on the new laws proposed by fellow cross-bencher Kerryn Phelps which, if passed, will hasten treatment for refugees on Manus Island and Nauru.
But Ms McGowan is the only cross-bencher who hasn’t signed up to support the bill, which if successful with the backing of Labor, will hand Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his government an embarrassing defeat in the parliament.
Tuesday is the first sitting day of the new year and the bill is expected to be debated some stage this week.
Albury deputy mayor and doctor, Amanda Cohn, who took part in a protest outside Ms McGowan’s office last Friday about the Urgent Medical Transfer bill, said she hoped the Indi MP would back Dr Phelps in the house.
“I attended the protest as a medical doctor because access to health care is a fundamental human right,” Dr Cohn said.
“To me this is a very simple issue.
“The only people who should be making decisions about people’s medical needs are their doctors, not ministers or bureaucrats from the immigration department.
“I hope that Cathy will put people before politics and supports the bill.”
Ms McGowan’s office was contacted to confirm whether the overwhelming sentiment of the feedback was in favour of Dr Phelps’ bill for the changes which would hand doctors and a separate medical advice panel the power to order the transfer of needy refugees to Australian shores.
IN OTHER NEWS:
The office declined to respond, but issued a press release outlining Ms McGowan’s sitting week agenda.
On her radar is speaking to the government’s response to the Regions at the Ready report.
Ms McGowan will table a petition calling on the government to provide additional funding for rural childcare in the wake of replacement providers needing to found in her electorate late last year.
She will speak on future drought fund legislation, specifically addressing the impact of climate change on farmers.
The cross-bench roster allows Ms McGowan to ask two question of the government.
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