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Pressure on for abuse inquiry

Tuesday 16 August 2016 | Published in Regional


AUSTRALIA– Australia’s Federal Opposition believes it has enough support to establish a Senate inquiry into abuse at the Nauru offshore detention centre, following the leaking of thousands of incident reports from the centre this week.

The documents were leaked to The Guardian, a number of which detail allegations of abuse at the centre, some involving children.

Senior Turnbull government ministers have sought to downplay the reports documenting allegations of abuse, self-harm by asylum seekers and refugees, assaults and poor living standards, as Labor’s manager of opposition business in the Senate, Sam Dastyari, said Australians did not want to turn a blind eye to abuse allegations in offshore detention centres.

During the week, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton stressed that a significant proportion of the claims relate to minor matters such as complaints over the centres food and children not going to school.

However, he said serious claims of abuse would be properly investigated by Nauruan authorities.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said that response was not good enough.

“What we see in Nauru requires the attention of the parliament,” Shorten said.

“I support regional processing, but I don’t believe you should have regional processing at the price of indefinite detention.

“The Federal Government needs to stop brushing these matters under the carpet. If there’s nothing wrong happening here, then they shouldn’t worry about scrutiny.”

Dastyari said the inquiry would find “what it will find” when questioned as to whether the decisions by the former Labor government could be under scrutiny.

But he insisted the focus would be on the current government.

“At the heart of this is this secrecy fetish that’s been run by this government, and this idea that says that we can cover this up and hide it,” Senator Dastyari said.

He called for politicians and journalists to have better access to Australia’s immigration activities on Nauru.

“If there’s nothing to hide, why can’t we go to Nauru now? Why can’t you jump on a plane this afternoon and try to find out what on earth is going on there?”

“We, as a nation, as a society, are not a people who turn around and turn a blind eye to human rights violations and abuses and I don’t believe that’s the country Australia wants to be.”

“There is a sense among certain groups and people within the current government – the harder we are, the crueller we are, the worse we treat people, the more we put pressure and beat these people down, that somehow its going to act as this kind of deterrent to people wanting to come to Australia.”

Responding to the leaks Dutton accused asylum seekers and refugees of making false abuse allegations and even self-immolating to get to Australia.

The comments were criticised by advocates, while Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said they were “abhorrent”.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the focus has to be shifted to”‘show people that there are legitimate pathways to come to Australia that don’t involve them risking their lives”.

“At the heart of this is a system that is morally wrong, it’s legally wrong, and it’s wrong in terms of the huge cost associated with it which could be used to treat people more humanely.”

Hehas called for a royal commission into offshore detention.