This Q&A Questioner Just Broke The Law To Talk About Nauru

Comedian Corinne Grant then unleashes.

22/08/2016 10:22 PM AEST | Updated 23/08/2016 12:28 AM AEST
Tracey Donehue says she witnessed countless acts of mistreatment an abuse on Nauru.

Teacher Tracey Donehue told the Q&A audience via videolink on Monday night about the mistreatment she witnessed working at the Nauru refugee camp, where hundreds of men, women and child remain in limbo.

Donehue's incident reports are just some of the 2,000 reports exposed in the Nauru Files, revealing sexual assault and abuse at a detention centre on Nauru.

On Monday night the teacher -- who has since left the country -- asked the Q&A panel what responsibility the Australian Government has for asylum seekers, arguing the mistreatment she witnessed was not addressed.

The question left Communications Minister Mitch Fifield fumbling as he said the responsibility was shared between Nauru and Australia.

Fifield said not all of the incidents were of "equal significance" and confirmed they were being investigated.

"I don't think there is anything systematically wrong with the system of offshore detention," he told the Q&A audience.

You can watch his full response here:

But as panelist and comedian-turned-trainee lawyer Corinne Grant pointed out, Donehue was breaking the law by publicly speaking out about the mistreatment she witnessed at the detention centre.

"By telling us what she saw in that detention centre exposes her to two years in jail under the Australian Border Force Act," Grant said on the program.

"Section 42D makes it illegal for any kind of worker or employee who was working in those detention centres to make public what has happened. That includes doctors and psychiatrists who have a professional obligation to report to their peak bodies when someone has been abused."

When Fifield argued it was not true, Grant continued, and was greeted by applause from the crowd.

"The peak bodies that represent the professional organisations are not covered by the Whistleblowers Act. And they're certainly not covered by Section 42D of the Australian Border Force Act.

"That is why doctors for refugees are forced into a position where they're having to take the Government to the High Court to try and get this ridiculous law overturned."

Australian Government Federal Register of Legislation
The 'Secrecy' clause of the Border Force Act stipulates 2 years' imprisonment for "entrusted persons" who disclose information about Australia's refugee detention centres.

Grant then told the audience the Federal Government was "hoodwinking" them.

"They don't want you to know what is happening in these centres because if you did, if you genuinely knew what was happening to these people, no-one in Australia would allow it to continue to happen," Grant said.

"Every one of those 1313 people would be brought to this country immediately if we really knew what was happening to them.

"There are 1,313 men, women and children in detention as we speak. One of those people is an interpreter who interpreted for Australians in Afghanistan.

"Because of that, he watched his children get killed by the Taliban. And instead of thanking him and protecting him we have locked him up on Manus for three years so far."

Present and past Governments have long implemented a policy of silence and invisibility at refugee centres both on and off shore, banning photos and videos and strictly limiting the media's access to the centres.

Grant's comments come in the context of a viral video last week showing distressing scenes of a young boy, bloodied and confused after an airstrike in war-torn Aleppo. The footage made headlines around the world and led many to call on countries such as Australia to do more to help refugees fleeing Syria.

It was later revealed that the child's older brother had died in the airstrike.

Shadow Health Minister Catherine King told the Q&A audience that Labor would support a senate inquiry into the mistreatment of asylum seekers, highlighting the safety of children in detention.

Fifield would not make a commitment to a senate inquiry.

"I am not the Minister for Immigration," he said.

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