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Taxpayers funding legal battles

Australian taxpayers are funding the Papua New Guinean and Nauruan governments' legal battles against opponents of the controversial offshore detention centres.

The revelation in a Senate hearing on Tuesday came as a team of doctors described the severe development and physical problems of children on Christmas Island.

In the Senate hearing, the Secretary of Immigration Martin Bowles confirmed the funding for legal costs used by both countries to thwart opposition to the detention centres came under the memorandum of understanding signed by both countries.

PNG is fighting a constitutional challenge initiated by opposition leader, Belden Namah, against the MOU agreement to process and resettle asylum seekers. The PNG government has also tried to shut down two human rights inquiries initiated by human rights lawyer Justice David Cannings.

The Australian government has spent between $350,000 and $370,000 defending the challenge in PNG and the intervention in the Cannings inquiry, Mr Bowles told the Senate hearing on Tuesday.

Human rights groups are appalled, saying the Australian government is blatantly ignoring the rights of asylum seekers in its dogged pursuit to stop the boats. Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the use of money to stifle human rights investigations was unacceptable.

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