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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 552

Asylum Seekers

Mr MARLES (Corio) (14:25): My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. Last Tuesday, the minister cautioned 'people to be very wary of unsubstantiated reports that may be put into the public domain'. What caution did the minister take in the very same press conference when he said that last week's death of Reza Berati at the Manus Island facility occurred outside the facility's perimeter?

Mr MORRISON (CookMinister for Immigration and Border Protection) (14:26): Before I answer the member's question, I am sure he would join me in expressing condolences to the family of Mr Berati. I offer those condolences on behalf of the government and myself for that tragic death that occurred at the Manus Island centre last week.

In relation to the question put by the member: as he would know, as a former minister that morning and over the course of that night I took several reports, verbal and otherwise, regarding what had occurred that night. What happens in these situations, as ministers previous opposite will know, is that information can be patchy—and it is rarely perfect on those first occasions. I reported the information I had as of that morning; and, later that afternoon when I returned to Canberra, I received further briefings and I gave a press conference where I stated quite clearly the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Berati—known as 'the deceased' at that time. I said:

In terms of the man who died, he had a head injury and at this stage it is not possible to give any further detail on that, including now, based on subsequent reports, where this may have taken place.

On the afternoon of that very Tuesday, I further qualified the report I had given that morning. Over the course of that week I received further briefings, and I dispatched my deputy secretary and General Campbell to Manus Island. Over the course of the weekend, on Friday night and on Saturday, in particular, I received further information that made it very clear that it was important to make a further correction to that earlier report. Information is never perfect in those circumstances. Over the course of that week I conducted five press conferences to update people on what was occurring at that centre. What occurred was a terrible tragedy.

The other point I would make about what occurred on that night is that, despite that terrible tragedy, the centre opened the next morning and it continues to operate today. That centre is an important part of our overall suite of border protection policies. I would not describe it as the cornerstone of our policy; I would describe it as an important part of our policy. It is the part of our policy that has been most successful in ensuring that, for 64 days and counting, we have had not one successful people-smuggling venture to Australia has been principally what we have done at sea. We stand by all of those policies, because those policies are stopping the boats and they are saving lives.

Mr Marles: Madam Speaker, I seek your indulgence to very quickly associate the opposition with the condolences that have been expressed by the minister in relation to the death of Mr Berati.