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Opposition says Comcare report confirms crisis

The Federal Opposition says that a damning report by health and safety authority, Comcare, confirms Australia’s immigration detention network is in the midst of a “rolling crisis”.

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The report found serious shortcomings with the department’s risk management processes, staff levels and training.

The government says it disagrees with some of the report’s findings but opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, says it is further evidence of the government’s mishandling of the portfolio.

“This report confirms what the coalition has been saying for more than a year – that our immigration detention network is in the midst of a rolling crisis,” Mr Morrison said.

“Minister Bowen is presiding over chaos both on our borders and in our detention centres.”

The report also shows the government is failing to protect Australian staff working on the frontlines of the detention networks, he said.

IMMIGRATION DENIES FAILURE TO COOPERATE

The Department of Immigration has rejected claims that it stifled an investigation into the immigration detention network which resulted in breaches of occupational health and safety laws being discovered.

A Comcare report obtained by the coalition under Freedom of Information laws identified major flaws in the immigration detention network.

COMCARE REPORT FINDINGS:

-No risk management process

-No plan to boost staffing levels

-Staff training inadequate

-No plan to deal with riots, suicide attemps

-No recognition of potential cultural clashes

ABC Television’s Lateline reported that Comcare found there was no risk management process despite the volatile detention environment and no plan to boost staffing levels in line with increases in the number of detainees in centres.

Staff at the centres were not trained to the point of competency, there were no written plans to deal with riots, suicide attempts or other critical incidents and a failure to recognise cultural clashes.

Comcare claimed there was a lack of co-operation by the department, which had allowed extremely tight schedules for visits to centres and that the department’s hierarchy refused to release critical information.

Departmental spokesman, Sandi Logan, rejected any suggestion the department had failed to co-operate.

“I think there may have been some miscommunication on a couple of occasions,” Mr Logan told ABC Television.

The report said there was a level of under-reporting of notifiable incidents under health and safety laws.

Mr Logan also rejected this but said at times the department had to wait for full medical and police reports before incidents were reported to the watchdog.

The department has until Monday week to respond to occupational health and safety breaches and faces fines of up to $250,000.

SERCO TOLD OF STAFF ASSAULTS

Comcare’s report said that staff from Serco, the company which manages the detention centre, told it about serious assaults on staff.

Witnessing detainee deaths and the distress of doing so were also outlined.

“Staff also advised of feeling inadequately trained and a lack of instruction, supervision and support at the time of a critical incident,” the report said.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman, Eric Abetz, said that the report revealed maladministration and ministerial negligence.

“This is a triple whammy that Comcare has found, they found that departmental officials were at risk, contractors were at risk and the detainees were at risk,” Mr Abetz told ABC Television.

“Everybody was at risk because of this culture of denial by the government that their border protection policies had failed.”

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