The introduction of the Australian Border Force Act (2015), placed a blanket ban on Reporting Human Rights Abuses in detention centres.
Medical practitioners across Australia stand unified against the despotic abuse of authority and have protested since the Act’s inception.
The medical united front began on the 4th of July, as Melbourne took lead, with a silent protest. Over one hundred doctors taped their mouths or painted them black, and stood in silence on the steps of Parliament and he town of Bendigo, rallied to show their support against the Act.
The rally in Broome, saw fifty attend. The protestors raised concerns regarding ethical obligations, and the Act’s capacity to further dehumanise people in detention.
In Coffs Harbour, over one hundred came out in force, Dr David Berger called for amendments to the Act and reassurance, “safeguard doctor’s rights, without fear of sanction,” he said.
In Adelaide, over one hundred protestors descended on Parliament House.
In Sydney, three hundred supporters were addressed by Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, who voiced her objection, ‘to ban reporting within a system with an inherent conflict of interest, is demonstrably inadequate.” She said.
Newcastle, had the largest turn-out in July- four hundred turned up to rally and repeal the Act. Nurse Erin Killion, organised the protest. The petition was signed by two hundred and fifty faithful protestors.
Although the medial industry are coalesced and call for the repeal of section 42 of Act as an urgency; the Act, has split the fraternity into three distinct groups:
· The first group advocate doctors boycott working in detention centres
· The second, suggest doctors not to sign contracts that put the employer’s interests between them and their duty to their patients.
· Thirdly, there are many health professionals vow to continue to work in the system, advocate for their patients even risk imprisonment, but defy- an immoral law.
The Act, runs contra to the Medical Board of Australia’s Code of Conduct, and is in direct conflict with the Declaration of Geneva and the International Code of Medical Ethics. This new Australian law is defying the World Medical Assembly.
The Act, overrides sections of the Code which directly apply to Immigration Detention Centres.
Section 5.3 provides-
“Good Medical Practice involves using your expertise and influence to protect and advance the health and well-being of individual patients, communities and populations.”4
Section 6.2 states –
“Working in your practice and within systems to reduce error and improve patient safety, and supporting colleagues who raise concerns about patient safety. Taking all reasonable steps to address the issue if you have reason to think that patient safety may be compromised.”4
This clash has created a direct -‘Conflict of Interest’
Section 8.11 of the Australian Code, requires-
“The doctor’s primary duty is to the patient; doctors must recognise and resolve this conflict in the best interest of the patient”4, all of the Code’s principles are superseded by Section 1.3 which states: “If there is any conflict between this code and the law, the law takes precedence.”
However, medical professionals who disobey the law and chose to report, will now face the undue severity and harshness of possible jail. Section 42- of the Act, makes it an offence with a penalty (2 years imprisonment) for an “entrusted person” to “make a record of, or disclose” protected information.
Human Rights Barrister- Julian Burnside, has pointed out, “a series of exceptions exist in sections 43 to 49.”
Relevance can be found in section 48 which sets section 42 on edge with an exception allowing disclosure to reduce ‘threat’ to ‘life’ or ‘health’. He explains-
As found in Section 48- an ‘entrusted’ person may disclose protected information if:
(a) the ‘entrusted’ person reasonably believes that the disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to the life or health of an individual; and
(b) the disclosure is for the purposes of preventing or lessening that ‘threat’.
Julian Burnside, emphasised doctors are at liberty to disclose facts under the exception rule found in section 48. “This might help prevent or lessen that ‘threat’ the disclosure and not constitute an offence,” (Burnside 2015).
The fight against the Act, has seen unification from: The Medical Association for the Prevention of War, along with, the Australian Medical Association, the Fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the World Medical Association. The Australian Association of Social Workers, and Teachers also stand consolidated, calling a repeal on secrecy, and demand, section 42 be removed from the Act.
For further research- Valuable resources I utilised are listed below
Berger, D., Australia’s law to gag doctors with concerns about asylum seekers is a failure of democracy (17/06/15)
Burnside, J., Why gag doctors in detention centres? What are we hiding?
c/o Green Left Weekly Smith, K., Medical Staff Rally against Birder Force Act (17/07/15) https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/59507 Friday, July 17, 2015
Twitter hashtag #WeWontBeSilenced!
Lavoipierre, A., Doctors are warning that new laws covering immigration detention centres are in direct conflict with the medical code of conduct- http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-19/doctors-warn-detention-centres-conflict-medical-code-of-conduct/6559940 (19/07/15)
The introduction of the ban on journalist was covered –
C/o SMH Pynt, B., ‘We need To see Manus; http://www.smh.com.au/comment/we-need-to-see-manus-island-20140224-33bk1.html (24/2/2014)
Doctors are banned from reporting on detention centres.
| Australian Border Force Act (2015) Cth,
A breach of section 42- Penalty 2 years imprisonment
|Australian Doctor ban on Reporting.|
|For an in depth Report please refer to-
REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS / REPORTERS SANS FRONTIERES
|The Medical codes origin
WMA Founded in 1947 in the aftermath of the Second World War, the WMA states in relation to prisoners and those in detention: “The physician shall not be present during any procedure during which torture or any other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is used or threatened.”
This is where the fear lies, re Guantanamo Bay