Australia’s controversial refugee medevac laws have been axed with an emotional Jacqui Lambie backing the Government’s push to repeal them.
The Tasmanian senator choked back tears as she revealed she would support the move on Wednesday morning, which will scrap extra powers granted last year to a panel of doctors to have sick refugees on Manus Island and Nauru brought to Australia.
“I get that this vote will disappoint many and I apologise for that,” Senator Lambie told the Senate. “This is a matter of conscience.
“I can’t let the boats start back up and I can’t let refugees die, whether it’s sinking into the ocean or waiting for a doctor and I am voting to make sure that neither of these things happen.”
The Senate voted to repeal the bill 37 votes to 35 before midday.
Senator Lambie secured a deal with the Government to change the legislation in return for her support but would not reveal it, citing national security.
It prompted fiery scenes in the Senate with Labor and Greens senators accusing her of doing a “secret deal”.
An emotional Senator Lambie said: “I’m not being coy or silly when I say I genuinely can’t say what I proposed.
“My hand is on my heart and I can stand here and say that I would be putting at risk Australia’s national security and national interest if I said anything else about this.”
Last week, Senator Lambie warned she would not back repealing the laws unless her one condition was met – but refused to publicly reveal it.
There has been speculation she called for the Government to accept New Zealand’s offer to take 150 refugees per year.
One Nation backed the push to repeal the laws, while fellow crossbenchers Centre Alliance voted to keep them in place.
“Prior to Medevac there were many deaths in detention. There have been none since Medevac came into force,” Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff said.
“This repeal will damage lives. It is a heartless action that shows complete disdain for humanity.”
He accused the Government of being “desperate for a win ahead of the summer break”.
“A government that has no empathy for people in need of critical medical care is a government that doesn’t deserve to govern,” he said.