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Monday, 9 November 2015
Page: 7947

Christmas Island


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:33): My question is to the minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. Sadly, there has been another death of a person who was under the care and detention of the Australian immigration department. This is the third in as many months. As a result, it has now been reported that a significant situation is unfolding inside the Christmas Island detention centre, as we speak. Can the government explain why they have remained silent all day about this situation? When will the minister update the Australian people about what is actually happening on Christmas Island?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:34): I can tell the Senate that on 7 November a detainee escaped the Christmas Island detention centre, and I am sorry to say that the detainee was found deceased outside the detention centre by the Australian Federal Police the next day, 8 November. I am sure the honourable senator would understand that it is not appropriate for me to comment further on the matter, at this stage, because the detainee's death is the subject of a coronial inquiry. Immigration staff and service providers are working to resolve a disturbance at the Christmas Island detention centre and are committed to maintaining the good order of the centre.


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:35): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. It was reported that Australian contracted guards, Serco officers, evacuated the centre around 10 pm last night. What is being done to protect the vulnerable asylum seekers who are currently locked up inside the centre during this serious incident? Will the government now respond to requests that separating asylum seekers from criminals must occur?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:35): I think you acknowledged in your primary question that this is an evolving situation, or words to that effect. I am not familiar with the particular press report to which you have referred. I think you and other members of the Senate can be reassured that all appropriate steps will be taken by the Australian government, its agencies and contractors to restore order in an appropriate manner.


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:36): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. There have been several deaths inside Australia's immigration detention centres in the last few months. Will the government now support an independent review of Australia's immigration detention network to clean up what is going on inside and to ensure that everybody's safety is looked after?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:36): As you say, Senator Hanson-Young, there has been a death, and any death is a tragedy. I am sorry to say, and to have to remind you, that under policies that you supported in recent years there were 1,200 deaths. That loss of life on a massive scale, unprecedented in Australian peacetime history, was stopped by the policies of this government. We continue to maintain an orderly border protection policy and we intend to continue to conduct the affairs and the management of the administration of the Christmas Island detention centre in an appropriate and orderly fashion.