POLITICS

Labor Confident In Support To Establish Senate Inquiry Into Nauru Abuse Allegations

'If There's Nothing To Hide, Why Can't We Go To Nauru Now?'

14/08/2016 8:10 PM AEST | Updated 14/08/2016 8:58 PM AEST
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Labor believes it has the support it needs to set up a parliamentary inquiry into allegations of abuse at the Australian-funded detention centre on Nauru.

The Opposition is expected to push for an inquiry when Parliament resumes on August 30 that would investigate the operation of the offshore detention centre and the response of the Australian government to the leak of 2,000 staff incident reports by The Guardian Australia.

The allegations of child abuse, sexual assault and human rights breaches -- some involving children -- have sparked widespread concern with human rights groups and refugee advocacy groups seizing on the reports as proof of a failed detention system. Meanwhile, the Turnbull Government has sought to downplay the claims.

The Federal Government needs to stop brushing these matters under the carpet. If there's nothing wrong happening here, then they shouldn't worry about scrutiny.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton labeled the Nauru files "hype", accusing asylum seekers and refugees of making false abuse allegations in order to reach Australia.

"Some people have even gone to the extent of self-harming and people have self-immolated to get to Australia," Minister Dutton said on The 7:30 Report on Thursday night.

"There are some [abuse claims] that are legitimate and there are others that aren't and have found not to be substantiated."

In an apparent attempt to escape culpability, he said the treatment of asylum seekers was "an issue for the Nauruan Government".

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said on Sunday that the allegations in Nauru require parliamentary attention, the ABC reports.

"The Federal Government needs to stop brushing these matters under the carpet. If there's nothing wrong happening here, then they shouldn't worry about scrutiny."

"I support regional processing, but I don't believe you should have regional processing at the price of indefinite detention," he said.

Labor's Manager Of Business in the Senate Sam Dastyari went further, saying that he "believes" his party would secure enough support for a Senate inquiry and that Australians did not -- and should not -- want to turn a blind eye.

"Who are we as a nation if we are going to turn around and turn a blind eye to these types of human rights violations?"

"This is horrific. These allegations are just disgusting," Senator Satyari told ABC TV's Insiders.

"The line has to be drawn...Who are we as a nation if we are going to turn around and turn a blind eye to these types of human rights violations?"

"I don't believe that's the country Australia wants to be."

When asked whether the decisions by the former Labor government would be questioned as part of an inquiry, he said it would find "what it will find".

He said Labor could stand against abuse in detention while supporting tough deterrent measures.

"There is a sense among certain groups and people within the current government....that the harder we are, the crueler we are, the worse we treat people...that somehow it is going to act as this kind of deterrent to people wanting to come to Australia.

"You can support offshore processing... and say 'we don't want people dying at sea on the voyage to Australia' but at the same time turn around and say human rights violations are unacceptable."

But he believes the Coalition's attempts to conceal what is happening on Nauru should remain the focus.

"At the heart of this is this secrecy fetish that's been run by this Government, and this idea that says 'we can cover this up and hide it'."

"If there's nothing to hide, why can't we go to Nauru now?"

Labor is expected to push for the inquiry when Parliament resumes on August 30, needing another four senators -- along with the support of the Greens -- to back the calls.

The push comes amidst calls for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse to widen its inquiry to include Nauru by three non-government organisations.

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