October 11, 2013
‘That is not something you’ll hear me discussing,’ says immigration minister
The immigration minister, Scott Morrison, says he does not intend to reveal incidents of self-harm in detention centres because it is an “operational matter” and could encourage copycat behaviour among detainees.
Morrison made the remarks at the weekly Operation Sovereign Borders briefing in Sydney in response to a question from a reporter about incidents of self-harm in immigration detention.
“Obviously, I get reports on these things, and they’re matters operational, and for this reason you won’t hear this government giving oxygen to that type of behaviour, because it runs the risk of endorsing that behaviour or encouraging that behaviour,” Morrison told reporters inSydney on Friday.
“So that is not something you’ll hear me discussing at these briefings.”
David Manne, human rights lawyer and executive director of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, expressed concern about Morrison’s comments in relation to the future reporting of self-harm by immigration detainees.
“The Australian government has a duty of care to these people, and a duty to the public to disclose what is happening to people fleeing from harm,” Manne told Guardian Australia. “It is fundamental that there be full and proper disclosure about people who are incarcerated at the behest of the Australian government, having fled from harm.”
“Given the clearcut duty of care owed by our government – and the grave implications for their liberty and wellbeing – it is crucial that the treatment of these people be subject to a proper public scrutiny.”
The Australian federal police commissioner, Tony Negus, told the Friday briefing that, since the change of government on 8 September, there had been 17 “disruptions” in Indonesia – which prevented 550 passengers getting onto people smugglers’ boats.
He reported arrests of “people who are facilitators”.
“These people will be charged with organising multiple ventures to this country,” Negus said. He added that an arrest warrant had been issued on Thursday “for a very significant people smuggler who will appear in court very soon, we hope”.
The acting commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, Air MarshalMark Binskin, said Lebanese authorities working with the task group had also arrested five people for questioning in relation to the “recent tragic event off the west coast of Java”.
He told the briefing that one asylum boat had arrived since the last briefing – on Thursday, at the Cocos Islands.
Binskin gave no additional information about the vessel – he suggested further information may be provided at next week’s briefing. TheAustralian Maritime Safety Authority is no longer issuing contemporaneous public information about asylum boats in distress – the practice it followed under the Rudd and Gillard governments. Under Operation Sovereign Borders, information will be supplied only at the weekly briefing.
Negus and Binskin have been in Indonesia this week, working through new co-operative arrangements in the wake of Tony Abbott’s recent visit to Jakarta. They returned to Australia on Friday morning.
Morrison, Binskin and Negus refused to answer questions about whether any boats had been turned back to Indonesia since the last briefing.
“As you know, the practice in these briefings is not to comment on operations that may jeopardise current or future operations,” Morrison said. “I won’t be making comments on those matters and that’s the same policy we’ve followed in any briefing.”
Negus declined to answer questions about the identity of the person who is subject to the arrest warrant, or about any specific changes in policing operations with people smugglers and facilitators in Indonesia since the change of government.
Negus said divulging any change in tactics would be “telegraphing our punches to the people smugglers”. He said only that the AFP had “doubled our numbers”.
Morrison made reference to providing additional funding for the AFP’s operations, but he declined to supply a dollar figure, saying the numbers would be presented in the budget.
Morrison reported on developments with facilities at Nauru. He said the government was investing in post-processing facilities for people remaining on Nauru after their claims had been assessed.
“A five-year agreement recognises that post assessment, people will remain on Nauru,” Morrison said.