Why doctors are challenging this Peter Dutton led law

DOCTORS launched a challenge in the High Court Wednesday to fight the Federal Government's laws that they say prevent them from speaking out about what goes on in detention centres.

Doctors for Refugees convener Dr Barri Phatarfod said under the Border Force Act workers were prevented from speaking out about what happened in detention centres and that this went against what doctors stood for.

She said doctors working with refugee and asylum seekers in detention centres and hospitals faced being jailed for two years if they disclosed information.

"As far as doctors go, we find that this law prevents us from doing our job and it also conflicts with the medical regulations that we've sworn to uphold," she said.

Those regulations included taking steps to minimise harm, avert any adverse outcomes and advocating on behalf of the patient.

Fitzroy Legal Service solicitor Meghan Fitzgerald said the High Court case would be a constitutional challenge.

She said the Act allowed for exemption from penalties in some cases, including for workers who seek permission with conditions to disclose information, but that there was no public interest exemption.

Ms Fitzgerald also said these laws meant that having no credible voices about what's happening in detention centres left the public in a situation where they had little idea about their government's actions.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said yesterday the department had not received a High Court application.

"If an application is served it will be considered and responded to in due course," the department said in a statement.

The department also pointed to a statement Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton made in July last year when he said the Act would not restrict anyone's ability to raise genuine concerns about conditions in detention through the appropriate channels.

Dr Phatarfod said a lot of things were going unreported because of the Border Force Act and that if the law was overturned, it would mean doctors would be free to do their job without the threat of jail.

"If this law was overturned, straight away the immediate effect would be that a lot of doctors would feel a lot better about being able to advocate for patients," she said.


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