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Report on inquiry into Manus Island death to stay under wraps

Date

Michael Gordon, Sarah Whyte, Emma Partridge

Under wraps: The processing centre at Manus Island.

Under wraps: The processing centre at Manus Island. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The Abbott government is not planning to release the interim report of its inquiry into the death of one asylum seeker and injuries to more than 60 others on Manus Island in February.

It also intends to keep the final report under wraps, citing the practice of the former Labor government's inquiries into incidents at detention facilities on Christmas Island and Nauru.

"As has been consistently stated, the government has adopted the same process for the conduct of the review as the previous government initiated in its review into the Nauru processing centre riot," a spokesman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said. "The final report will be released, consistent with those same processes."*

The lack of information comes as the Immigration Department pressed ahead with transporting 83 asylum seekers to Curtin Immigration Detention Centre, many of whom were due to give evidence against the department on Friday.

Lawyers failed to get an injunction on Wednesday afternoon in the Federal Circuit Court. Some will be moved to Western Australia on Thursday, and others on Sunday.

Judge Rolf Driver said the directions hearing on Friday would only involve legal argument. ''At the present time there is no persuasive reason to interfere with the ordinary operation decisions of the Minister's department,'' Judge Driver said.

Michaela Byers, a solicitor representing many of the Villawood detainees, said the result was ''really disappointing''.

''It's impossible to represent 40 people interstate as a pro bono practitioner,'' she said.

Barrister Wayne Flynn argued the government was being ''hasty'' by transferring the detainees the day before their matter was to be heard.

The detainees are challenging the government for leaking their personal details published on the Immigration Department's website in February. Details of up to 10,000 people were leaked, including their names, date of birth, location and arrival date.

Meanwhile, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young accused the government of working ''feverishly to cover up'' what happened on the night of February's Manus Island violence, describing the refusal to release the report as ''unacceptable''.

''It seems the Australian government is working hard to make sure that the truth is kept hidden,'' she said.

She cited the rejection of PNG police requests for assistance from the Australian Federal Police, complaints security contractor G4S had not fully co-operated with the PNG police probe and the deportation of an Australian lawyer who had obtained statements from eye witnesses.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the department had received the progress report from an independent inquiry headed by Robert Cornall this week, saying the minister would be briefed on its content ''as appropriate''.

Mr Morrison is due in PNG this week to be updated on the police investigation.

Labor's immigration spokesman Richard Marles has called on the government to release the progress report without delay ''to make sure whatever safeguards are needed can be put in place to avoid such a tragic incident occurring again''.

* Clarification: An earlier version of this story may have suggested to some readers that the final report into the Manus Island riot would never be released. The Immigration Department said the report would be released at a time of its choosing.

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77 comments

  • Well surprise! surprise!! And here was me thinking that this was to be a transparent government of "no surprises, no excuses". Mind you if we are told nothing I don't suppose we can be surprised, except by reality when it mugs us!

    Commenter
    Lesm
    Location
    Balmain
    Date and time
    April 03, 2014, 7:37AM
    • Transparent to the public - NO.
      Transparent in practices meant to hide information - Yes.
      Yesterday it was noted that those asylum seekers who had their information inadvertently published by the government were to be moved across the country before they could bring their cases to court. Their legal representatives fought against this but the court ruled in favour of the Dept.

      Commenter
      Jump
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 8:03AM
    • In Australia, when investigating murder cases, our police departments are not obligated to report to the public their evidence as they collect it. Why do you expect this murder investigation to be different?

      Commenter
      Kingstondude
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 8:08AM
    • Didn't you know that by voting in for Tony would mean no transparency? You sound surprised.

      Commenter
      The Other Guy1
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 8:26AM
    • kingstondude - the murder investigation is different in several obvious instances.

      a. The Government is responsible for the murder rather than a citizen

      b. The Government is, if not actually hindering the murder investigation, refusing to assist the police with their inquiries.

      c. The Government does not intend to bring the murderer to justice and will refuse to release the results of the investigation when complete.

      Tell us which police force behaves as badly as that?

      Commenter
      Ross
      Location
      MALLABULA
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 8:27AM
    • Kingstondude,

      Well as none of this is ever likely to end up before an Australian court, as the events in question occurred in another country, the only way we will ever be informed is when, like in all previous instances, the results of a publicly paid for enquiry into the circumstances is published. It looks as though the only way this secretive government will be exposed is by a Senate Enquiry the results of which will be made available to the Australian public

      Commenter
      Lesm
      Location
      Balmain
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 8:33AM
    • It beggars belief that a report into an incident involving the murder of an asylum seeker is to be kept secret. Who has what to hide on the LNP side? We know for fact the LNP has no problem airing dirty laundry, well, as long as its ALP or Union laundry at any rate with a Royal Comission into Unions, Pink Bats enquiries etc but when it comes to the actual murder of a person under the legal care of Morrison? Silence is golden, it would seem.

      The investigation into the riot and burning under Labor should have been released as well, however this event, one involving murder and likely at the hands of a goaler or other employee cannot be allowed kept secret. It involves those recently important concepts of transparency and accountability. The same concepts Abbott, Morrison and Co demanded and promised, up until they won the election but not for a moment after, unless it suits their base political purposes.

      Shameful is no longer sufficient enough a word for this government and its disregard for truth, accountability and transparency. It is verging on, if not already at the point, of dangerous and counter-democratic and decidedly un-Australian in its workings. It left decency behind when Abbott was elected opposition leader and we have only descended deeper into the murky depths of paranoid secrecy and vindictive obstructionism ever since.
      Bugoo, in the comment below this suggests she/he won't lose any sleep over it and that the only ones who care or want transparency are Abbott bashes. Quite sad hypocrisy and so very small minded. The people who might benefit the most are those we lock away for having the temerity to avail themselves of CoR, of we which are a signatory.

      Commenter
      Warwick
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 8:37AM
    • I hope when Labor is back in power that they hold a Royal Commission into Manus Island and the underhanded dealings of the current excuse for a Government.

      Commenter
      JJ
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 9:01AM
    • Let me get this right, the government is loosening its stance and letting a heap of migrants into Australia in order to evade investigation?. I am sick of hearing the asylum issue and how minorities stooge the media to give it extremism publicity, however, this matter of sending them to western Australia smells of a rat, notably during WA elections, like will it be a last minute election ploy of saying oh geeez we are so nice we are going to release these people, or if you don't talk we will soon release you in WA.

      Commenter
      Brian Woods
      Location
      Glenroy
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 9:40AM
    • This is Government is totally shameful and utterly despicable. The smell of a rat is quite pungent.

      Commenter
      meatatarian
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 10:32AM

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