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Subject: Christmas Island Detention Centre disturbance

E & EO Transcript

JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton good morning.

PETER DUTTON: Good morning Marius.

JOURNALIST: Can you just bring us up to date with the latest on the situation on Christmas Island with the Australian Federal Police there now?

PETER DUTTON: The latest advice I have is that is the Australian Federal Police along with Serco officers are working their way through the centre to restore order.

My understanding is that, on the latest advice at least that I have received, is that there has been little resistance to the entry of the officers in terms of no physical threat to the officers. The operation hasn’t concluded.

So that’s the preliminary advice and once order is restored we can deal with the clean-up.

The Government has been very clear about the fact that we have a hardened population within Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre.

Detainees are now assessed on their individual risk by the Australian Border Force officers and people who pose the highest risk or higher risk are those who are accommodated now on Christmas Island Detention Centre.

Originally it was used for people who came off boats and now it is used for those people who pose a higher risk. That is the threat that the officers on the ground are dealing with and I have confidence that they will restore order shortly.

JOURNALIST: Can I clarify you said little resistance. Do you mean no resistance?

PETER DUTTON: That was the initial report I had in one of the early briefings this morning.

I just haven’t had an update in the last few minutes, but the officers obviously will move through the compound.

It is important to understand that within the Immigration Detention Centre now on Christmas Island we have a number of people who have serious criminal histories. A number of people have been involved in outlaw motorcycle gangs and people who have been charged with serious assaults including grievous bodily assault and manslaughter.

So we are dealing with some serious criminals and once order is restored then if people are found to have wilfully damaged Australian Government property then investigations will be undertaken and people will face the full force of the law.

JOURNALIST: In fact that’s a source of concern that there are these serious criminals that you referred to. People are concerned that relatively innocent or entirely innocent asylum seekers are mixed with those serious criminals to their own risk. Is that the case?

PETER DUTTON: No Marius and the point that I made before is that the Australian Border Force do individual assessments.

So for most people who would come off boats they would pose a low risk and if they were required to be held in detention, bearing in mind that many live on bridging visas in the community until their matters are resolved in their favour or not, those people will go into a lower security detention arrangement on the mainland.

But if somebody has been out on a bridging visa, for example, and they have committed a sexual assault or grievous bodily harm then that individual risk posed by that person – whether they have come off a boat or whether they have been out on a visa in the community otherwise – their threat will be derived from their own actions.

The assessment will be made and it’s on that basis, not the basic on which they arrived, that the officers will make a determination about the threat level that they pose.

JOURNALIST: This unrest followed the discovery of an asylum seeker killed at the weekend on Christmas Island. Has the circumstances of his death been resolved?

PETER DUTTON: No, but it is a tragic circumstance obviously.

The information that I have, the advice that I have, is that this person escaped from the centre sometime on Saturday. His body was found outside of the centre on Sunday. There had obviously been a search untaken on both Saturday and Sunday and tragically he was found deceased.

As I’m advised there are no suspicious circumstances in relation to his death, but the Australian Federal Police are investigating that matter and they will ultimately deliver their report to the coroner who will conduct his enquires and release the report after that.

JOURNALIST: A continuing criticism of the Government when incidences like this happen or when self-harm incidences are reported or when other incidences are reported unofficially is why the level of secrecy for the Government? Why not have greater transparency in handling the issue?

PETER DUTTON: Well again Marius that is to buy the line if you like of some of the critics of the Government. The fact is that the Commonwealth Ombudsman has access and can go into the centre whenever is deemed appropriate.

We have visits from the International Red Cross, we have visits from other NGOs, but there is a level of operational requirement in all of these matters.

I can’t broadcast, for example, the every move of the Australian Federal Police as they’re going through the compound because that’s an operational matter.

But there is a level of oversight and information is released regularly.

As I say, as you would see in any detention centre or correctional facility within Australia, there is a level of operational secrecy that’s required to maintain order and to protect both the officers running the centre as well as the detainees.

Our job is to make sure that people that have had their visas cancelled because of character failures or where they’ve committed serious criminal offences, they’ve had their visas cancelled and they’re held in detention, our responsibility is to return them to their country of origin as quickly as possible.

In some cases people obviously are appealing through the courts their cancellation and so it will necessarily take some time for the matters to be resolved.

We have to try and work with those people to return them as quickly as possible because if they’ve caused harm in the Australian community and they’ve breached their visa conditions then, as would be the case for any Australian overseas, the visa is cancelled and the person is returned as quickly as possible to their country of origin.

JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton, thank you very much.

PETER DUTTON: Thanks, Marius. Thank you.

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