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THE HON RICHARD MARLES MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND


BORDER PROTECTION
MEMBER FOR CORIO
E&OE TRANSCRIPT
PRESS CONFERENCE
MELBOURNE
SATURDAY, 21 MARCH 2015
SUBJECT/S: The Moss Review
RICHARD MARLES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION: In the
last 24 hours, the handling of the Moss review represents an appalling low
even for this Government. The Moss review details serious allegations of
sexual assault within the detention facilities on Nauru. The Moss review
finds that the testimony of asylum seekers is convincing and it concludes
that the degree of sexual assault within these detention facilities is being
under-reported. This is quite evidently shocking. Now when these
allegations first surfaced last year, the then Minister for Immigration, Scott
Morrison, in typical style, sought to shoot the messenger. He said, and I
quote "the public don't want to be played for mugs with allegations being
used as some sort of political tactic". Without properly speaking to Save
the Children, 10 of its staff were removed from Nauru, the implication
being that they had been involved in inciting protest. And all of that was
provided to editors of newspapers here in Australia before the
Government sat down with Save the Children itself. The Moss review
makes perfectly clear that these actions of the Government were a
disgrace. And what the Moss review really shows is that this is a
Government more concerned about the potential for protest than it is
about the sexual assault of minors.
This is a Government which has lost its moral compass and then to seek
to bury this review, yesterday afternoon, effectively in the dead of night,
after what that morning had become a solemn day for our nation, is a
disgrace. When the Minister accompanied the release of this review with
the words "that this Government has a good story to tell", it shows that
this Minister has lost any connection between the difference of right and
wrong.

Now Labor supports offshore processing because we wanted to see an end


to the tragedy of people losing their lives at sea. But that does not mean
that asylum seekers are the enemy and if we owe asylum seekers
anything, and we do, it is that the facilities that we provide afford asylum
seekers with safe, dignified and humane refuge. And so long as there is
sexual assault going on within them, then that is an obligation which
Australia is failing to meet.
What the Moss review really shows is that it is this Government which is
actually playing the Australian people for mugs and I think any fair
minded Australian would expect that this Government would sit down with
grave respect and listen to the allegations of sexual assault which are
being made by asylum seekers and then to act and that is precisely what
the Australian people expect this Government now to do.
Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: The policy of secrecy over Asylum Seekers is something
that Labor has abided by too. Would you contend to that?
MARLES: We have been complaining about the secrecy which has
shrouded this whole area of policy since the beginning of Operation
Sovereign Borders. And in that respect there was a stark difference by the
way in which this Government has gone about managing this area of
policy compared with the way in which Labor went about the way of
managing this area of policy.
It is really important that when allegations of this gravity are being made
that rather than seek to bury them, to walk away from them, the
Government actually takes responsibility for them and stops trying to
blame everybody else.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that the Government coincided the release
of the Moss report with the death of the former Prime Minister?
MARLES: This report has been on the Ministers desk for the better part
of a month. In that period of time, we have had a number of weeks of
Parliamentary sitting. It was expected by all in the sector that this report
was going to be released a couple of weeks ago. Then we see it being
released yesterday afternoon, after that morning and yesterday had
become a most solemn day for our nation. I will let you draw your own
conclusions in respect of that question.
JOURNALIST: The Government commissioned this independent review
and promised to implement all 19 recommendations. Isnt that good
enough?
MARLES: We would expect nothing less than the Government to
implement the recommendations of this review. But we need for the
Government to give the Australia people a sense of confidence that every

person within these detention facilities is safe, that every child in these
detention facilities is safe and to ensure that we do not see sexual assault
occurring within this detention facility. And I would make this point what
the Moss Review makes clear is that the fact people are living in tents,
almost 18 months after this government took office because of a decision,
a punitive decision, that the former Minister for Immigration took in
respect to this facility goes to the heart of the question of security of
people within the facility. Now I want to hear what the Government
intends to do in respect of that.
JOURNALIST: Labor of course, reopened the camps in Nauru in 2012, how
much responsibility do you think the Party bears for the failings identified
in this report?
MARLES: Let me be perfectly clear, this report is difficult reading for any
party which has been involved in the establishment of the facility on
Nauru, Im perfectly happy to say that. But Labor is not standing here
saying that there is nothing to see here, which is effectively the stance of
this Government. We see that people are living in tents almost 18 months
after this Government came to power. It was absolutely the intention of
Labor that those facilities which were in tents would be hard walled
standard so that security could be put in place. It was this Government
which put the brakes on that in a punitive decision to try and create an act
of deterrence and that was an appalling decision to take. But what we
actually need to see now from this Government is them taking
responsibility for what is occurring on Nauru and to do something about it,
rather than to point the finger and to blame everyone else.
JOURNALIST: Would Labor give more access to the centres to media and
independent monitoring, it previously didnt give access to media?
MARLES: We would be doing everything we could within our power to
make these facilities and their operation as transparent as possible to the
Australian public and obviously the media is completely involved in that.
JOURNALIST: Given the cost of responding to these 19 recommendations
is it time to close Nauru do you think?
MARLES: Nauru and Manus offshore processing has played a critical role
in saving lives at sea, thats why we support it. But the real issue here is
about ensuring that these facilities are facilities which are affording those
people within them safe, dignified and humane refuge. What we need to
see from this Government is steps that they intend to take which can give
every Australian a sense of confidence that that is the way in which these
facilities are operating.
JOURNALIST: What should be immediately done? Whats the first point?
MARLES: Well I think we all want to know that everybody in those
facilities are safe. It is really for the Government now who I might say

have had this report on their desk for the better part of a month to come
out and detail how they intend to give the Australian people a sense of
confidence that people within those facilities are safe.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government of Nauru has the capacity to
properly investigate the allegations of sexual assault and child abuse?
MARLES: The report details a number of ways in which there can be
better coordination between the authorities within the detention facility
and the authorities, including the police of the Government of Nauru. I
think better coordination between those authorities and the Government
of Nauru will help enhance the capacity of the Nauruan Police to
investigate allegations of this kind and indeed that is a finding of the Moss
Review.
JOURNALIST: The Government have said that the AFP and the
Department will work with Nauru to build capacity. Isnt that good
enough?
MARLES: The Government should absolutely be working with the AFP and
the Government of Nauru, the Nauruan Police Force to make sure the
coordination is as best as it can possibly be, and to help build the capacity
of the Nauruan Police Force. They need to do that. But right now, we need
to have a sense of confidence that this Government is going to take steps
to ensure that everyone in that facility is safe and Ive got to say
attempting to bury this report as the Government did yesterday afternoon
does not inspire that confidence at all.
JOURNALIST: Have you read Mark Cormacks comments to New Matilda?
MARLES: Im aware of the comments that hes made?
JOURNALIST: What do you make of them?
MARLES: I think the comments he has made to New Matilda raise very
serious questions. There are questions now about why those comments
arent contained within the Moss Review. This is a government which has a
track record of shooting the messenger, of not taking responsibility itself
and blaming everybody else that it can absolutely find. Lets be clear, if
were talking about what occurred on Manus Island just over a year ago
with the death of Reza Barati, the key finding of the Cornall Report was
that it was a failure of timely processing which built up a sense of
disconsternation amongst the detainees on Manus. Now that was all about
this Governments failure to engage with the Government of Papua New
Guinea around the question of resettlement. It was the Governments
actions, not those of service providers specifically, but the Governments
actions which were at the heart of what happened in respect of Manus
Island. And if we go to the question of Nauru what the Moss Review shows
is the fact that people are still living in tents 18 months after is a real
issue. Thats a decision of this Government. Its their actions, not those,

particularly of people from Save The Children, and I think the comments
that you refer to bear out the fact that this is a government which is
looking everywhere else other than itself to resolve its problems and we
need to hear from the Minister now about his response to the report and
to the comments that youve just referred.
JOURNALIST: Yesterday the Prime Minister was asked on 2GB about the
Moss Review and said occasionally things happen. What do you make of
that?
MARLES: This Prime Minister needs to think before he speaks. To dismiss
what has occurred here as being the proverbial happening as he has done
in the past is to utterly miss the point. Rather than to seek to blame
everyone else, rather than to say there is nothing to see here, the Prime
Minister and his government need to take responsibility for what is going
on, to listen to these allegations and then to act. I think thats what the
Australian people would want to hear this Prime Minister display rather
than making the ridiculous comments which he did yesterday.
Thank you.
ENDS