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Question – Self harm of asylum seekers

Richard Di Natale

My question is to the minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis, and relates to offshore processing. I refer to Omid, the case of the young man who self-immolated on Nauru and later died in a Brisbane hospital who was denied adequate medical care, including immediate access to health professionals to adequate pain relief. It is a case that mirrors the tragic situation of Hamid Khazaei on Manus Island, who died after a simple cut on his leg became infected. There were extensive delays in receiving adequate medical treatment.

Minister, why are these delays and deaths in Australia's offshore detention camps still being allowed to happen; and will you prosecute those health professionals who speak out against the appalling medical care being delivered in offshore camps?

George Brandis 

Thank you very much, Senator Di Natale, and I agree with you that the man who self-immolated on Nauru presents a very sad case. I am sure the sympathy of all members of the Senate, regardless of our views about policy, goes to members of that man's family.

There is, I understand, a coronial inquest underway in Queensland at the moment, because the man died, having been medivaced to a hospital in Brisbane, and of course it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the facts of the particular case while there is a coronial inquest underway.

Senator Di Natale, you give an example of two deaths, and any death is a tragedy. The death of more than 1200 people at sea was a tragedy too, Senator Di Natale. More than 1200 people died at sea during the period of a Labor government when Australia lost control of its borders.

Richard Di Natale

Mr President, I rise on a point of order going to relevance. I asked specifically about those two deaths in offshore detention camps and why those delays were still being allowed to happen. I also asked whether health professionals who spoke out against the medical care not being provided would be prosecuted; I did not ask about any other situation.

Stephen Parry (President) 

Thank you, Senator, I will remind the minister of the question. He does have over a minute in which to answer the question. Minister.

George Brandis

Thank you, Mr President. Senator Di Natale, I think the context is important. You criticise a set of policies by the coalition government that have stopped the deaths. You point to two deaths, neither of which are the result of any policy implemented by the coalition but as a result of the particular circumstances at a particular time.

The case of the man who self-immolated on Nauru was a suicide after all, but we know that there were 1200 or more deaths at sea as a result of policies that were adopted by the previous government and we will never return to those.

Senator Di Natale, you ask whether or not any health professionals would be prosecuted for speaking out. I am not aware of any suggestion that there would be any prosecutions. I cannot immediately think of what offence anyone would be prosecuted for, if they contributed to the public discussion of these events, whatever their point of view.

Richard Di Natale

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Last week the Prime Minister said the government had no definitive road map when it comes to the closure of the Manus Island detention camp. Has the Prime Minister since found a road map; and does it include a plan to deal with the announcement from the government's major detention contractor that it will pull out from both Manus and Nauru?

George Brandis

Senator Di Natale, can I remind you of the history of the Manus Island detention centre. First of all, the Manus Island detention centre was established under a memorandum of understanding between the Rudd government shortly before the 2013 election and the government of New Guinea.

Might I also remind you, Senator Di Natale, that the offshore processing regime—albeit in this case in respect of a similar MOU entered into with the government of Nauru—was the subject of a legal challenge in the High Court, the judgements in which were delivered earlier this year. I pointed this out to you before, Senator Di Natale—and I do not know why you persist in saying what you now know to be not untrue—the High Court decided by majority that, under the terms of that memorandum of understanding, those camps were not being conducted by Australia.

Richard Di Natale

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question, a relevant follow-up question. The Papua New Guinean Prime Minister said very clearly that Australia is wholly responsible for the people on Manus Island. Does the Prime Minister reject that those 850 people seeking asylum seeker are this government's responsibility?

George Brandis

Senator, those people are the responsibility of the government of Papua New Guinea which accepted them. I am of course aware, as we all are, of a decision of the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea. Australia was not a party to those proceedings. No orders were made against Australia or any Australian party in those proceedings. Those orders have no effect on Australia. They were orders in relation to the constitutional and legal obligations of the government of Papua New Guinea in relation to those people, and it is that government who is burdened by the order and has responsibilities to deal with the matter.

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