Health panel sacked by immigration dept amid ‘leak’ fears

The 12-member Immigration Health Advisory Group was replaced by a sole adviser, military surgeon Paul Alexander, in December.

The panel, which included psychiatrists, psychologists, trauma experts, nurses and GPs, had been providing independent policy advice to the federal government since 2006.

Documents, obtained under Freedom of Information by Australian Associated Press, show immigration department secretary Martin Bowles was concerned about potential conflicts of interest by members of the panel.

It had become increasingly apparent the contentious nature of some policy approaches in relation to "illegal maritime arrivals" had made it difficult for some members to provide health advice independent of their other interests, he wrote in a ministerial minute.

The conflicts of interest arose from "natural professional interests and obligations" including, in some cases, public and media comment related to issues under consideration by