Coast MP defends refugee treatment
FISHER MP Andrew Wallace has defended the Turnbull government's refugee policy in the wake of the latest death on Manus Island, claiming it had been successful in reducing arrivals by sea and preventing drownings.
The death of a Tamil refugee this week, who was found hanging next to the kitchen in the Lorengau Hospital, brings to seven the number of detainees to die on the island, sparking outrage from advocates who say highly-traumatised men were going untreated for mental illnesses.
Jane Keogh, a 72-year-old Australian Brigidine nun who is on Manus trying to support those in most need, has been posting on social media horrific accounts of their physical and mental condition.
"I accept that the Australian Government does have obligations under the UN Refugee Convention and we are complying with those obligations," Mr Wallace said.
"The Australian Government must balance these rights with its own responsibilities to protect its borders and sovereignty.
"Importantly, the Australian Government under the policies of prime ministers Howard, Abbott and Turnbull have stopped the illegal people smuggling trade and stopped the 50,000 unauthorised arrivals by boat which under the Rudd, Gillard, Rudd Labor governments resulted in at least 1200 people drowning at sea.
"Since then, the Turnbull government has closed down 18 onshore detention centres and there are now no children living in detention.
"Prime Minister Turnbull last year negotiated a landmark transfer of refugees to the United States, in addition to existing arrangements for permanent resettlement in Papua New Guinea and Cambodia. The Turnbull government's immigration and border protection policies are working.
"Any return to a Bill Shorten Labor government will result in a recommencement of the people smugglers' business and will no doubt result in more deaths at sea."
Ian Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition, described as "plain nonsense" Mr Wallace's claim Australia was complying with its obligations under the UN Refugee Convention.
"The UN Human Rights Commission and a number of other bodies have consistently condemned Australia's offshore detention arrangements," he said. "Amnesty International has declared the circumstances on Manus and Nauru fulfilled the definition of torture."
Mr Rintoul said there were no arrangements with the PNG government nor any program for resettlement of the refugees. He said Cambodia had only ever said it would take refugees from Nauru and was a solution that would never be durable.
Mr Rintoul said those on Manus Island had refugee status but no freedom of movement to leave.
Bronwyn Bell, a member of the Sunshine Coast-based Buddies refugee support group, said detaining people in offshore detention was an unacceptable form of deterrence to others.
Fairfax MP Ted O'Brien has failed to respond to questions.