Morrison blames ALP for the number of children in detention

IMMIGRATION Minister Scott Morrison laid the blame for the large number of children in detention and the injustices they may experience there, firmly at the door of the previous government and an unbending Senate when he fronted a human rights commission inquiry in Canberra yesterday.

"This is an inquiry into children in detention as you have stated. However, it could be more accurately described as an inquiry into children Labor put in detention," he said.

This inquiry has been charged with assessing whether laws, policies and practices relating to children in immigration detention meet Australia's international human rights obligations and has already received submissions and heard evidence that many of these children have been put at risk both mentally and physically.

Mr Morrison and head of the Human Rights Commission Professor Gillian Triggs were locked in a number of heated exchanges yesterday with the latter pushing the minister on the time these children spent in detention, the conditions under which they lived and the impact it was having on their mental health.

The minister, however, could not be budged saying that although he recognised the moral dilemma of his situation, his primary responsibility was to protect Australia's borders and turn back the boats.

"Sentiment cannot be indulged at the expense of effective policy; that is, saving lives and ending the chaos and tragedy that was occurring, that many thought could never be turned around," he said.

"That is my duty. There were always going to be costs."

Mr Morrison acknowledged the fact that children were spending more than a year in detention centres was not ideal but refused to take responsibility saying his hands were tied because the Senate refused to give the nod for the Temporary Protection Visas which would allow families to live in the community while their claims were being assessed.

"That is the consequence of what Labor and the Greens decided to do by blocking TPVs in the Senate," Morrison said.

"I don't have a visa product that can deal with the 30,000 people that are waiting and I will not issue permanent visas. I will not compromise Australia's border protection."

The Ministers Council, which also faced the inquiry yesterday, reported that they had advised against holding children in off-shore detention centres citing poor living, educational and medical facilities but Mr Morrison said acting on the advice would have contradicted overall policy decisions.

"I don't accept that the health services are substandard," he said. "In times of stress these services come under pressure but they are not substandard.

"I saw too many children die at sea not to pursue to policies I am pursuing.

"The legacy of Australian border protection officers staring into the faces of a child corpse in the water again is over."

- APN Newsdesk

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