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Monday, 3 March 2014
Page: 1320

Asylum Seekers

Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (14:23): My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. Minister, you said that you could guarantee the safety of refugees under Australia's care at Manus Island if they remained in the detention centre and acted cooperatively. Given consistent reports that refugee Reza Berati was doing exactly that when he was beaten to death, is it not now clear that your commitment is worthless and that you cannot guarantee their safety? Or is the brutality at Manus Island simply another plank in your policy of deterring vulnerable people who are seeking our protection?

The SPEAKER: Before I call the minister, the last part of the question was coming very close to being a reflection on a member. However, with that reservation, if the minister is happy to answer it I will give him the call. But I would suggest that in future the member may choose to word it differently.

Mr MORRISON (CookMinister for Immigration and Border Protection) (14:24): I thank the member for his question. The death of Mr Berati is a tragedy. It is a terrible tragedy. It is as tragic as the 1,200 other deaths that occurred over the last five years. All of those deaths were no less tragic than that of Mr Berati—the children who died at sea were of the some 8,000 who got on boats over the last five years, when the previous government joined up with the Greens to abolish the measures that worked under the Howard government. They abolished them.

The situation on Manus Island has been very difficult—it has. The previous government put in place arrangements on Manus Island. They put in place all of the arrangements and all of the contractors that were present on that night. Soon after becoming the Minister for Immigration, I went to Manus Island and one of the first things that was presented to me was the issue of security in the compound. As a result of that we commissioned a force protection assessment review and started taking immediate steps to improve the security of that compound. I believe that the steps we took over the ensuing four to five months saved lives on that night.

Managing a centre in a situation like that, where there are rising tensions—where we have been working for months to try to put in place the details of the resettlement arrangements and the processing arrangements on Manus Island that were left undone by the previous government—has led to the increase in tensions in that place. We are working on that, but it remains the case that if there is riotous behaviour and if there are people who are not cooperating with the care and support that is being provided to them in centres then the risk in those centres inevitably goes up.

We have been working to reduce that risk. The report which we have announced and put in place is now going to be conducted in partnership with the government of Papua New Guinea. The police investigation which is underway there and the coronial inquiry will get to the facts. They will get to the facts. We will know what happened on that night. I am not going to speculate on the conduct of any individuals on that night, but the report will find out and I will wait for the report to find out.