Stonewalling Morrison Suddenly Finds Voice On Eve Of Kids In Detention Inquiry


Scott Morrison has used a rare one-on-one television interview to attack the credentials of Australian Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs, as her organisation’s National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention continues to present evidence of abuse and neglect in Australian facilities.

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection fronted the ABC’s 7:30 program last night and appeared unfazed by an insistent line of questioning from host Sarah Ferguson which focused mainly on the 157 Tamil asylum seekers currently being held in Australia after lawyers appealed to the High Court to prevent them being sent back to Sri Lanka.

During the exchange Morrison was pressed on recent comments made by Triggs who said virtually all the 174 children detained on Christmas Island were sick, and that 13 women were under constant suicide watch.

“I don’t think there is evidence of the claim the Human Rights Commissioner has made, in the way she has made it,” Morrison said.

“These are difficult environments and appropriate care is provided by our people.

“I think they’re quite sensational claims that have been made and she herself is not a doctor and we have medical people who are there and provide that care on a daily basis.”

Earlier in the month, Triggs said that up to 128 children had self-harmed on Christmas Island over a 15-month period.

“I think that every Australian, of whatever political persuasion and however threatened they feel by refugees, I feel that this story must be told because Australians will hang their heads in shame when this is really understood,” Triggs told ABC radio.

Despite Morrison’s effort to discount her observations, health experts who have seen immigration detention from the inside are providing an equally disturbing picture to the AHRC’s ongoing inquiry.

Psychiatrist Dr Jon Jureidini told New Matilda that children at South Australia’s Inverbrackie facility were experiencing hallucinations, nightmares and bedwetting, with children as old as seven still wearing nappies because of the trauma they had endured.

Another doctor, who spent six weeks on Christmas Island with medical services provider IHMS, recently told a Melbourne hearing that the situation of children on the island was one of “hopelessness and helplessness”, according to a Guardian Australia report.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s most recent report records there are currently 699 children held in Australian detention centres and 193 in offshore facilities.

The AHRC’s inquiry continues today, with a public hearing in Sydney to be addressed by Department officials and a new host of doctors who have visited or worked in detention facilities.

Medical practitioners have long warned against the policy of offshore detention, with recent reports linking the practice a six-fold increase in self-harm among asylum seekers.

In the 7:30 interview, Morrison rejected claims that the asylum seekers currently involved in the High Court dispute faced persecution in India, which is not a signatory of the Refugee Convention.

Advocates and family members have warned that sending them to Sri Lanka would be unthinkable, but that their situation in India would also be precarious.

Max Chalmers will be reporting and live tweeting from today’s National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention hearing. You can follow him here.

Max Chalmers is a former New Matilda journalist and editorial staff member. His main areas of interest are asylum seekers, higher education and politics.