Staff working for immigration contractors on Nauru were told of plans to spy on Senator Sarah Hanson-Young before she visited the island, according to explosive allegations aired by the Greens MP this morning.
The fresh allegations come after a submission to a Senate Inquiry made by an anonymous Wilson security staffer said Hanson-Young was spied on by a group of Wilson security staff, who followed her around the island and monitored her room when she visited to inspect the detention facilities.
Speaking at a press conference in Sydney, Hanson-Young said she had now been contacted by an employee of another contractor working on the island, backing the allegations in the submission.
“This wasn’t just some rogue group in Wilson security. Staff members of other service providers were told I would be watched,” she said.
“The fact I’ve been contacted by staff of another contractor, a different company on the island, who were briefed here in Sydney that I would be monitored… indicates this was much broader than just the Emergency Response Team inside Wilson Security.
“The government and the Immigration Department now have to be absolutely up front here. Did they know about this?”
Hanson-Young said she had received legal advice and would be referring the incident to the Parliamentary Privileges Committee.
At an earlier press conference, Prime Minister Tony Abbott dismissed the idea Hanson-Young had been subject to surveillance.
“I don't accept that characterisation. I believe she was being, in fact, looked after while she was there,” he said.
But Hanson-Young hit back, asking the Prime Minister if he would feel comfortable having his wife or his daughter watched while they were at work.
“The Prime Minister – the Minister for Women indeed – if he doesn’t understand that women don’t like to be watched, my gosh, it’s just creepy… the fact the Prime Minister doesn’t seem to understand that beggars belief.”
She said the monitoring had been a clear attempt to interfere with her work as a parliamentarian.
“A big part of our job is to make sure we know what is going on in government run facilities. Billions of Australian taxpayer dollars are spent running these detention centres. The government keeps the media out, they keep a cloak of secrecy above these places, they investigate and prosecute staff who speak out.
“It is up to parliamentarians to keep a check on what the government is doing in these institutions.”
The allegations come a day after whistleblowers spoke out against new laws that ban those working in Australia’s immigration detention network from speaking out about their experiences.
Passed with Labor’s support, the legislation threatens those who disclose information related to their work with two years prison.
While Wilson has denied the allegation of spying, the company conceded it was aware staff had attended Hanson-Young’s hotel in an ‘unauthorised’ capacity but had subjected them to disciplinary action, according to a report in Guardian Australia.
New Matilda contacted the Prime Minister’s office to ask if these staff had been ‘looking after’ Hanson-Young. There was no response at the time of publication.