Scott Morrison under scrutiny after riot
Tony Abbott defends immigration minister, saying he doesn't want a "wimp" defending Australian borders, as Greens push for an inquiry into last week's fatal clashes on Manus Island. Nine News.PT1M10S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-33b81 620 349 February 24, 2014
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Scott Morrison's conduct should now be the subject of the inquiry he has commissioned into the chaos and carnage that unfolded on Manus Island last week.
The inquiry's terms of reference should be widened to include who gave the Immigration Minister such wildly inaccurate information after the violence - and what steps he took to verify it before going public.
The minister now concedes he was wrong to assert, without qualification, that 23-year-old Iranian, Reza Barati, was killed outside the detention centre when he and others ''absconded'' from the ''safety'' it afforded.
He also said the asylum seeker was shot in the buttocks, received his wound ''outside the centre'', that just two shots were fired, and there was no suggestion anyone employed by security contractor G4S was involved.
All these assertions have been challenged.
Even when he subsequently conceded there were conflicting reports about where Mr Berati died, Mr Morrison insisted, again without qualification, that he could guarantee the safety of asylum seekers who remain in the centre and ''conduct themselves'' appropriately.
The logical conclusion is that he is accusing all those who suffered injuries of misbehaving, yet his statement is contradicted by graphic accounts I have been given by those who tended the wounded, including the dying Mr Barati, when they were carried to the nearby wharf.
They tell horror stories of terrified asylum seekers, who had not been involved in any form of protest or name-calling, hiding under their beds before being dragged out by the legs by locals employed by G4S and savagely beaten or slashed.
On Sunday, Mr Morrison appeared to be preparing the way for a get-out from his guarantee, asserting that where asylum seekers behaved in a ''riotous and aggressive'' behaviour, this ''will escalate the risk to everyone in the centre''.
Alarm bells should have been ringing once it became clear that more than 60 unarmed asylum seekers had suffered injuries - many of them serious and one causing death - yet no one else was hurt and there was little property damaged.
Another matter of contention that must be investigated is the catalyst for heightened tensions among the asylum seekers.
The minister dismisses as false the reports that the asylum seekers were told on the Sunday they had no prospect of permanent resettlement in Australia, a third country or on Manus, and that they should accept voluntary return to their homelands.
He insists they were told those found to be refugees would be offered settlement in Papua New Guinea and that a third country option would not be offered - and neither the PNG nor Australian governments would assist in finding one.
This account is rejected by whistleblowing interpreter Azita Bokan and another who was present but who has asked that his name not be used. They say the message from the meeting was that the asylum seekers should go back to where they came from.
The bigger questions, which will not be addressed by the inquiry, are whether the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru are operating in contravention of Australia's international treaty obligations, and, most important, whether there is a more humane way to stop the boats.