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What Does the Passage of the Medivac Bill Mean for the Future of the Morrison Government?

What Does the Passage of the Medivac Bill Mean for the Future of the Morrison Government?

A historic defeat in Parliament doesn't necessarily mean defeat (yet) for the Morrison Government.

13th February 2019

When one thinks of the current political climate in Australia, words such as ‘chaotic’, ‘vengeful’ and ‘uncertain’ come to mind. There is no doubt that we live in uncertain times. Before the Federal election occurs in May, this uncertainty will only continue to fester. Beyond this, one question that springs to mind in the wake of the Medivac bill is “can the Government last that long?”

The simple answer is that a lot would still have to happen for an early election to be called. Even more would have to happen for the Prime Minister to willingly resign.

The Medivac Bill

There are certain issues which capture the public’s attention more than others. One such issue is the plight of refugees seeking asylum in Australia, and the oft-repeated adage of ‘stopping the boats’. Yesterday, the Morrison Government suffered an historic defeat in the House of Representatives. This was because they lost a vote to a non-governing party. Medivac will allow Doctors to have more say in the treatment of those detained on Nauru or Manus Island. More contentiously, the bill will also allow them to travel to Australia for treatment. Although it will only apply to those already on those islands, the Government insists this means a return to people smuggling and the decried ‘boats’.

Governments don’t often have to implement legislation they don’t support. And while this is indicative of an ailing Government, it’s not the nail in their Canberran-coffin, so to speak.

No-confidence motions

Governments often struggle to get legislation through parliament – there’s competing interests, unreliable party allegiances, and unholy alliances to contend with. However, when a Government loses the ‘confidence’ of the house that it’s meant to be passing legislation in, it has serious consequences (just ask Theresa May). In January, Theresa May faced a vote of no confidence after the government failed to pass her Brexit deal. Although it didn’t succeed, it also can’t be said that she came out unscathed. Public dissatisfaction with the May Government (and Brexit itself) has only become further entrenched since then.

The Medivac bill could potentially be the trigger Bill Shorten needs to call for a vote of no confidence. ‘No confidence’ means exactly how it sounds, and a government that loses the ‘confidence’ of the parliament also loses its mandate to govern.

It’s no surprise then that successful no confidence votes normally result in the resignation of the Prime Minister. They can also trigger an early election. However, the opposition would only put forward such a motion if they were certain that they could win. So while it is certainly a possibility, it’s not likely (especially considering that some independent MPs have said they wouldn’t support the motion).

Old issues, new promises

What can be taken from the upheaval of the last day is that national security, offshore detention and immigration will become a focal point of the upcoming election and each party’s campaign. Although these are old issues, they will see a resurgence in the coming months. We can expect the rhetoric to remain antagonistic, and party-lines to be crossed.

Either way, each party will blame the other for anything that happens in between now and May, and whether it be boat arrivals or medical evacuations, a new blame game will be played.

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Author
Jackie Olling

Jackie is the Content Manager at Lawpath and manages the content team. She has a Law/Arts (Politics) degree from Macquarie University and is an admitted solicitor in the Supreme Court of NSW. She's interested in how technology can help shape the future legal landscape.