Australian politics live: Jacqui Lambie’s China warning, medevac in the balance

A noticeably emotional Jacqui Lambie just explained her position on medevac to the Senate – though it must be said, she raised more questions than she answered.

For those of you who haven’t been following the medevac debate, Ms Lambie held the key vote. The government needed her support to repeal the law, and she has finally delivered it.

“Many people have known in here, this has been a really hard decision for me to make. Sorry everybody, for taking this long to make it, but we’re getting there,” Ms Lambie told the Senate.

“Medevac is not a national security threat, but there are real problems with the way it’s operating. They cannot be amended away.

“The Labor Party and the Greens might think everything is A-OK, but I’m not comfortable with it and I’ll tell you, they know as well as anybody else that this isn’t right.

“To those who say that doctors should make the final call on matters like this, doctors don’t make our health policy. The final decision maker for health policy is the minister for health. You can take advice from doctors, but doctors aren’t elected, they aren’t accountable to the public.

“I’m faced with a question of what to do. Do I repeal the legislation or let it sit there? Not as perfect as the activists would have you believe, but not as terrible as the media loudmouths would have you believe,” she said.

Last week Ms Lambie announced she would support the repeal of medevac if the government met one condition. She did not reveal what that condition was – and still isn’t.

The Senator became tearful as she addressed that.

“I put up to the government a proposal to work with me to secure my support,” she said.

“I’m not being coy or silly when I say I genuinely can’t say what I proposed. I know that’s frustrating to people, and I get that. I don’t like holding things back like this. But when I say I can’t discuss it publicly due to national security concerns, I am being 100 per cent honest with you,” Ms Lambie said.

“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.

“Every journalist asked me to discuss it anyway, because they assume that everybody who refers to national security as a reason to keep something secret is a lying, cynical bum, and they’re probably right most of the time. I understand that instinct.

“So I put to the government a proposal, and since then we have worked together really hard to advance that proposal. We’ve worked to an outcome I believe we both want, which is an outcome that our borders are secure, the boats have stopped and sick people aren’t dying waiting for treatment.

“As a result of that work, I am satisfied, I am more than satisfied that the conditions are now in place to allow medevac to be repealed.

“I thank the government for working productively with me to get that. I get that this vote will disappoint many, and I apologise for that.

“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 those things happen.”

This. Is. Baffling.

The government’s Senate leader Mathias Cormann, not half an hour ago, explicitly said there was no “secret deal” with Ms Lambie.

“There is no secret deal. Let me repeat that – there is no secret deal,” Mr Cormann said.

Now she appears to have confirmed there was a deal, which she can’t talk about for “national security” reasons.

So is there a deal or not? It’s a pretty basic question.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale blew up in response to Ms Lambie’s speech.

“We’ve just heard conflicting accounts. He had Minister Cormann say that there was no deal. Now we’ve just heard Senator Lambie say there is a deal,” he said.

“Who is lying? Minister Cormann, are you lying? Or is Senator Lambie lying? We’ve just heard that you and Senator Lambie have worked on a secret proposal that she cannot disclose for so-called national security reasons, and only a few moments ago you stood up and said there was no deal.

“You walked over to Senator Lambie and said, ‘Is it OK if I say there’s no deal?’ We heard you say it! Now, who’s lying? Who is misleading this parliament?

“Because there’s either a deal, as Senator Lambie has just said, and you’re lying. Or Senator Lambie is lying. Someone is misleading the Senate.”

Pictures: Kym Smith

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