I have written often about the discrimination accorded to people with disabilities and health conditions in our Migration system. In addition to the prohibition in the Act in relation to these applicants for residency visas, we also have a “health waiver” that is assessed by the Commonwealth Medical Officer (CMO). It is this process of assessment by the CMO that I want to address in this particular article.

In the case that I want to highlight the child of 12 has a “mild intellectual impairment”. The CMO needs to assess this condition in monetary terms to determine whether the child is going to be “a burden” to the taxpayer exceeding $40,000 over the life of that child. Yes, the assessment is not set at $40,000 per annum but at that figure over the life of that child. In this child’s case the assessment is based on the expected life of 84 years (being female) less her current age. In this case that is 72 years.

This is the written assessment that the family has now received:

“The applicant does not satisfy sub-subparagraph PIC 4006A(1)(c)(ii)(A) in Schedule 4 to the Migration Regulations.

The applicant is a 12 year old person with: – Mild intellectual impairment.

Form and severity of the applicant’s condition: the applicant has a mild intellectual impairment requiring educational support. Provision of services to a hypothetical person in Australia with the same condition as the applicant and at the same severity: a hypothetical person in Australia with the same condition as the applicant, at the same severity, would be likely to require educational assistance and disability services. This condition is likely to be Permanent.

I consider that a hypothetical person with this disease or condition, at the same severity as the applicant, would be likely to require health care or community services during the period specified above. These services would be likely to include:

·         Special education services

·         State disability services

Provision of these health care and/or community services would be likely to result in a significant cost to the Australian community in the areas of health care and/or community services. In preparing this opinion, I have had regard to the information available to date concerning the applicant, including, but not limited to the immigration medical examination dated 12/01/2017 and a report from Paediatrician, Dr XXXXXXXXXXX (dated 1/02/2017)”.

There are a number of presumptions being made by the CMO in this assessment. In addition in this particular case the clients mother is a nurse. The extended family of the child have indicated that they would meet ALL the costs that the child incurs. The parents of the child pay the school fees at the private school that she goes to. But the CMO’s assessment is based on the “hypothetical” person. Where is the treatment of this child on her own merits? Why are we comparing this child to a “Hypothetical” person?

This child is a British Passport holder but originally of Indian birth and origin. As a British Passport holder we have reciprocal Medicare arrangements with Britain. The Department of Human Services webpage clearly states that we have reciprocal medical arrangements with a number of countries. Britain is one of them: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/enablers/rhca-health-care-visitors-australia

And the agreement provides that “Some of your costs for medically necessary care in Australia may be covered if your country has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia”.

So, I come back to the statement above. Why are we comparing this child with the “hypothetical” person? Like people who arrive here seeking asylum, this child has lost her identity as a human being. She is now only relevant if compared to a hypothetical being. This smacks of sheer arrogance.

Another instance that I had dealt with some years ago involved a person with epilepsy. The CMO came back with an assessment against the hypothetical person and arrived at some exorbitant cost to the taxpayer. At the time I was the CEO of the Epilepsy Association here in WA. I went back over census data and all the studies that had been done by advocacy bodies and came to the realisation that the government spends and funds epilepsy services to the tune of $7 per person with epilepsy per annum. I put together a submission to the CMO in that instance and watched with amusement as the CMO withdrew its assessment and the Immigration department approved the visa!

As I have written before, the Australian government is quick to laud its signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Yet in practice it manages to breach it on a regular basis when it deals with migration applications. When I first started doing this work, the department would apply this to permanent residency visas. Now they appear to be doing the same to temporary visa applications. In this instance the applicants were asking for a 457 Visa for a period of 4 years. The mother of the child works in residential aged care as a nurse. Clearly that is an area that is of “public interest”. But the department continues to do all it can to deny a visa to the parents.

If there is one further area of Immigration policy that needs attention, this is it.