November 27, 2012
Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison will travel to Nauru and Manus Island next week to inspect the asylum seekers processing centres there ”first hand”.
Mr Morrison said he wrote to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Monday night, telling him he wanted to see the progress on Australia’s moves to re-establish offshore processing. Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday he had made private arrangements to visit the islands and see how ”things playing out on the ground”.
He said that he had asked Mr Bowen about eight weeks ago to help him visit Nauru and Papua New Guinea but had been knocked back.
Yesterday, Mr Morrison spoke with Amnesty International refugee coordinator Graham Thom. This follows Amnesty visits to Nauru last week, when it raised serious concerns about the conditions and health of detainees, who are currently housed in tents.
Mr Morrison said he was concerned about the delays in setting up permanent facilities.
”It’s not quite clear who’s running the show,” he said.
He noted that while it was ”part of the point” that people did not want to be on Nauru or Manus Island – given offshore processing is meant to be a deterrent – ”we need to ensure that the facilities that are in place in Nauru are appropriate”.
This week, the Coalition is due to introduce a private members bill to re-introduce temporary protection visas. Mr Morrison said he had lodged the notice of motion yesterday and that the bill would be considered sometime over the next three days.
Ahead of Coalition party room meetings this morning, he dismissed concerns raised by some Liberal backbenchers over the move.
”They’ve been raising [these concerns] for over a decade,” Mr Morrison said.
In the Labor’s caucas meeting on Tuesday morning, the majority of questions to ministers went to Mr Bowen on asylum seekers. Six MPs asked the Immigration Minister questions ranging from the healthcare arrangements of asylum seekers, to work rights and accommodation on Nauru.
Mr Bowen told caucus that plans for healthcare were appropriate and that he had already signed a contact for permanent accommodation on Nauru.
In response to a question on the failed Malaysia agreement, he said he would have liked to be able to implement the plan if he had been allowed to by the opposition.
In response to another question, he said it would possible to facilitate Labor MPs visits to Nauru and Manus island, but that there would need to be a consistent approach to funding.
Mr Bowen did not respond directly to a suggestion that asylum seekers might work in regional areas with labour shortages.
This comes as parliamentary debate begins on the government’s move to excise the Australian mainland from the migration zone.
Last month, Labor introduced legislation into the lower house that if successful, would mean the very small number of asylum seekers who reach the mainland by boat would be processed offshore.