The Australian Coalition government has shut down the flow of information on the arrival of asylum vessels and the transfer of people offshore under the military-led Operation Sovereign Borders.
Despite seizing on public information to attack the Labor government for every unauthorised vessel intercepted over the last six years, newly sworn-in Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has demanded silence from the agencies in his portfolio.
All requests for information from Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Immigration – on issues ranging from boat arrivals, to detention centre capacity levels, the numbers of detainees on Manus Island and Nauru, or violent incidents in the detention network – are now directed to the mobile telephone of Mr Morrison’s press secretary.
Under the Labor government, Customs and Border Protection would release an alert detailing where every asylum-seeker vessel was intercepted and how many passengers were aboard the boat.
But prior to the election Mr Morrison warned under a change of government, it would be up to the three-star general in charge of Operation Sovereign Borders, Angus Campbell, to decide whether information about boat interceptions would be publicly released.
The Weekend Australian yesterday asked whether plans to fast-track the sending of asylum-seekers offshore would compromise health checks and malaria vaccinations.
Mr Morrison’s office declined to answer questions, citing “sensitivities” around Sovereign Borders.
Former minister Tony Burke warned there would be serious consequences if the immigration portfolio was allowed to “go back to a culture of secrecy”.
“That was exactly the problems identified in the Palmer and Comrie reports back when the Howard government locked up Cornelia Rau and deported Vivian Alvarez,” Mr Burke said.
“Any government that has the courage of its convictions lets the Australian public know what’s happening.”
- Australian opposition leader refuses legal aid for asylum seekers (craighill.net)
- Australian opposition plans to relegate asylum seekers to military, keep numbers secret (craighill.net)
- Veil of silence over boat arrivals (theage.com.au)
- Labor attacks Government’s move to end announcements of asylum seeker boat arrivals (abc.net.au)
- Govt rejects asylum boat secrecy charge (bigpondnews.com)
- Govt rejects asylum boat secrecy charge (news.theage.com.au)
- Government denies claim of secrecy on boat arrivals (sbs.com.au)
- Indonesia ‘offended’ by coalition’s asylum policy (sbs.com.au)
- Factbox: Operation Sovereign Borders (sbs.com.au)
- An asylum seeker boat arrives (bigpondnews.com)
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