The Refugee Medevac Bill Brawl, By The Numbers

    A huge fortnight in Australian politics has been dominated by debate on refugees, asylum seekers and border security. Here's what you should know.

    Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE


    The razor-thin vote in the House of Representatives on the Medevac Bill on Tuesday Feb. 12. Voting for were Labor and crossbenchers Kerryn Phelps, Adam Bandt, Cathy McGowan, Julia Banks and Rebekha Sharkie; voting against were the Coalition government and independent MP Bob Katter. It was a significant defeat for the Morrison government — according to parliamentary staff, the first loss on a piece of substantive legislation for a government on the floor of the House of Representatives since 1941.


    The numbers for the Senate vote the next day, Feb. 13, that passed the Medevac bill into law. Voting for were Labor, the Greens, Centre Alliance and independents Tim Storer and Derryn Hinch; voting against were the Coalition, One Nation, Cory Bernardi, Fraser Anning and Brian Burston.


    The maximum number of hours the minister for home affairs has to decide whether or not to agree to a transfer under the new medevac laws. After two doctors recommend a transfer, the case goes to the minister, who has 72 hours to come to a decision. If the minister disagrees on health grounds, the case is referred to an independent medical panel for consideration. The minister can also veto on the basis of national security concerns, or a substantial criminal record. The legislation only applies to refugees and asylum seekers already on Nauru.

    Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

    1.4 billion

    The estimated number of dollars required to reopen the detention centre on Christmas Island, according to prime minister Scott Morrison. Morrison announced the centre would reopen on the basis of security advice the day after the medevac bill passed.

    Labor at first labelled the decision "hysterical and unhinged", but then Bill Shorten said if effective medical treatment can be delivered on Christmas Island, "that's fine". The government plans to send refugees and asylum seekers approved for medical transfers under the medevac law straight to Christmas Island, a plan labelled “outrageous” by Greens senator Nick McKim.


    The number of beasts who Australia’s intelligence agencies believe may be stirring because of the medevac bill, according to this tweet from Sky News journalist David Speers.

    I’m told Australia’s intelligence agencies believe “the beast is stirring” since the passage of medevac bill. They are trying to ensure “the beast doesn’t wake up”. (The beast is the people smuggling trade fyi). Details on Sky after QT.


    The number of refugees and asylum seekers who have been transferred to Australia from Nauru and Manus Island for medical treatment since 2013. Attorney-general Christian Porter says a "loophole" in the medevac bill means people can't be sent back to Nauru or Manus; Labor disagrees.


    The number of refugees and asylum seekers transferred for medical reasons who are still in Australia today.

    Bruce Bennett / Getty Images


    The number who have been returned to Nauru or Manus Island. In 2013-2015, 268 people were returned, while only 14 have been returned in the past three years. Home affairs boss Michael Pezzullo said the dramatic drop is due to legal action being filed in Australia that keeps people in the country.


    The number of legal cases filed in the Federal Court on behalf of sick refugees and asylum seekers to force a transfer to Australia since July 1, 2018. In 34 of these 51 cases, a Federal Court judge ordered a transfer, and in 17 cases, the government transferred people in the middle of legal proceedings. A total of 133 people were transferred to Australia as part of these cases.


    The number of cases in which the government says it transferred people after lawyers contacted the Department of Home Affairs, with no legal action filed. A total of 209 people were transferred to Australia as part of these cases.


    The number of people still detained on Nauru, which passed laws last week that throw Australia's new medical transfer laws into doubt. Nauru has banned transfers based on doctor referrals conducted over telehealth (appointments by phone or video calls) and a Nauru-run committee has the final say on whether refugees and asylum seekers can be transferred to Australia. Porter said on Thursday morning that he is still seeking legal advice on how the situation will play out.

    Tracey Nearmy / Getty Images


    The number of children still on Nauru. They are expected to be resettled in the United States this month.


    The number of men on Manus Island. 456 are refugees.


    The number of days since then Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd announced in July 2013: “As of today, asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.”


    The number of men who have died in Australia's offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island since the regime was re-established in 2012.

    Lane Sainty is the editor of BuzzFeed News in Australia and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Lane Sainty at

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