“I am aware that it is within the capacity of the government to accept it,” she said in a statement.
“If that condition is met, I will vote in favour of the repeal of medevac. If that condition is not met, I will oppose the repeal of medevac.”
Almost 180 asylum seekers have been transferred to Australia under the rules legislated in February over the objections of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has tried to reverse the decision since gaining a slim majority in Parliament at the May election.
I support the government’s position on Operation Sovereign Borders. I do not believe this position is undermined by medevac.
Senator Jacqui Lambie
About 263 refugees and asylum seekers remain on Nauru, while 221 are in Papua New Guinea. About 642 have been resettled in the United States under the deal struck between former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and former US president Barack Obama.
Sources said Senator Lambie had sought the views of a “wide range of people”, including trusted current and former parliamentary colleagues, during the course of her negotiations – some of whom had urged her to seek a solution for hundreds of people held offshore who have been living in limbo.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said during a visit to Australia in July her offer to resettle 150 refugees remained on the table, while emphasising it would cover people with approved refugee status.
The offer was first made by former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in February 2013 and was continued under his successors, Bill English and Ms Ardern.
While the Gillard government accepted the offer, Tony Abbott rejected it upon becoming Prime Minister in September 2013.
The offer was rejected again during the Turnbull government after a failed attempt to legislate a “lifetime ban visa” to stop the refugees moving from New Zealand to Australia.
Mr Dutton said in July that Australia would consider taking up New Zealand’s offer “when and if” it would not encourage more boat arrivals.
Senator Lambie said on Wednesday she believed offshore processing protected Australia’s borders.
“Boat turnbacks work. The promise that nobody who illegally comes by boat will ever be resettled in Australia is an important one,” she said.
“I support the government’s position on Operation Sovereign Borders. I do not believe this position is undermined by the presence of medevac.”
Senator Lambie said she recognised the concerns the government had “made clear” to her about the way medevac was functioning.
Refugee advocates have leaned heavily on Senator Lambie — the holder of a critical vote — to block the government’s repeal of the law.
Human Rights Law Centre’s legal director David Burke said on Wednesday Senator Lambie’s acknowledgement of the importance of the medevac laws was welcome and she had an opportunity to “help the lives of people who have been held offshore for more than six years by the Australian government”.
“We call on her to make sure that her primary consideration is the humanity of these people and the need to ensure they are able to live safely,” he said.
Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra