National

Medevac repeal needs Labor: Dutton

By AAP Newswire

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says the government won't be able to repeal laws that changed the terms of asylum seeker medical transfers without Labor's backing.

"We have the numbers in the lower house but we need the Labor Party's support in the upper house, there's no question about that," he told Nine's Today on Friday.

The coalition is eager to overturn the so-called "medevac" laws, arguing they threaten Australia's border security by leaving the government with less control over who enters the country.

The legislation came into force against the government's will in March with the support of Labor and the crossbench.

Mr Dutton believes the government's election win has renewed its mandate to keep up border security.

"This bill was always about bringing people here for different purposes (other than health)," he said.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese says the changes have been working exactly as they should.

Warnings Mr Dutton made about the legislation leading to hundreds of asylum seekers pouring into Australia within weeks of it passing have not materialised, he stressed.

Only 22 people have been transferred from Manus Island and Nauru to Australia under the laws, out of the 1000 who have been approved for medical transfers under Mr Dutton's ministerial watch, he said.

'You can have strong borders without being weak on humanity," Mr Albanese said.

The comments come as a Federal Court ruling has reignited the political debate over the laws, after deciding doctors didn't need to see a patient face-to-face but could review records.

Mr Dutton is seeking advice on challenging the court decision if the government isn't able to repeal the bill.

"As I'm advised not only do they (doctors) not have to see the patient themselves the patient doesn't even need to provide consent," Mr Dutton told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

But Labor's home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally says it's not the case that asylum seekers don't have to provide consent to trigger their own medical evacuation.

"Those (medical) records can only be reviewed with their consent," she told ABC News.

Human Rights Law Centre senior lawyer David Burke has also rejected the minister's claim.

"Before doctors are able to make assessments, every patient provides their consent," he told AAP.

"This consent is needed for the doctors to obtain the patient's medical records."

Under the regime, two doctors can recommend asylum seekers currently on Manus Island or Nauru be transferred to an Australian territory for treatment.

The home affairs minister then has 72 hours to decide whether or not to agree to a medical transfer.