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Question - Baby Asha

Senator HANSON-YOUNG

My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. Senator Brandis, right now, 'Baby Asha' and her family, along with dozens of other families, are living in Australia with the threat of imminent return to Nauru hanging over their heads. Will the government let these families stay here so that they can rebuild their lives or will you continue to disregard advice of medical experts and send these families back to the prison island of Nauru as soon as you can?

Senator BRANDIS

Senator Hanson-Young, as Minister Dutton announced yesterday, 'Baby Asha' has now been transferred to community detention, following advice that her medical treatment has concluded. The Australian government's approach to cases of this kind has not changed. It has always been the approach of the Australian government, under both sides of politics, I might say, not to return to offshore processing facilities individuals, whether infants, children or adults, where there are medical reasons not to do so. That policy has not changed. Each decision is made on a case-by-case basis. In the case of the patient known as Baby Asha, that infant was assessed to be not suitable for return to an offshore processing facility.

Senator Hanson-Young, the policies which the government have adopted—in which we are now supported by the opposition, I might say—are policies that have seen the cessation of the flow of men, women, children and infants to Australia through people-smuggling routes. Senator Hanson-Young, under the policies of the previous government, which you supported, the number of children in detention peaked at 1,992—1,992 children in detention, at the same time, in the middle of 2013. In those six years, more than 8,000 children passed through the detention system. Today, as a result of the successful policies of the government and as a result of the work of my colleague Peter Dutton, there are now 73 children in the detention system, and that number is reducing all the time.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given Senator Brandis's response to my first question, my supplementary goes direct to the issue of government policy: will the government change its policy, to stop immigration department officials from vetoing individual recommendations of doctors when they advise not to send individuals to Nauru?

Senator BRANDIS

Well, Senator Hanson-Young, these decisions are made by ministers on the advice of those who advise them. In making these decisions, as I explained to you in answer to your primary question, the medical needs of the patient concerned are had regard to. That is not a new policy. That is a policy that has always been the case. Of course, medical considerations are taken into account and of course the opinion of doctors in relation to those medical considerations is important. But ultimately, as you know Senator, in any orderly scheme of public administration, it is responsible ministers, not private practitioners, who make the final decision.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. When will the Prime Minister stop ignoring the advice of doctors that sending children to Nauru is state sanctioned child abuse?

Senator BRANDIS

Senator Hanson-Young, as I said to you, and I am just going to have to say it again, the medical needs of a particular asylum seeker or detainee are always taken into account when a decision is made whether or not to return that person—whether it be an adult or a child—to a regional processing centre. Those decisions are made by ministers. Those decisions are informed by medical advice. Where the medical advice suggests that individuals should not be returned, the minister will routinely decide to adhere to that medical advice. That has always been the practice, and it was the practice in the case of Baby Asha. But, Senator Hanson-Young, it has always been the practice. By the proposition you have put to me in your question, you imply that that is not the case. It is the case; it always has been the case that we listen to medical advice.

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