High-profile Liberals have slammed the Abbott government’s “abhorrent” and “outrageous” policy of keeping children in detention and its dismissal of a damning human rights report.
Former Liberal New South Wales premier Nick Greiner told Fairfax he was not surprised that young refugees in detention suffer from “extreme levels” of psychological distress, as reported by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
“The principle that Australia … finds it necessary to be virtually the only civilised nation that does this, I think is just abhorrent,” Mr Greiner said.
He criticised the government’s reaction to the report, which Mr Abbott described as politically motivated, as “very sad”.
“It’s typical of our inability to have a sensible debate on the substance of issues,” Mr Greiner said.
“It’s totally not surprising that the [Commission] found the mandatory detention of children, especially unaccompanied children, has very serious deleterious effects on their mental and physical wellbeing.”
On Sunday, Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser attacked Mr Abbott’s response to the report, calling him a “bully-boy”.
“If the Government had wanted to handle the matter sensibly, they would have said they recognise there have been abuses,” Mr Fraser told ABC radio.
“Instead of doing that, they’ve chosen to attack the commission as a body and to attack the chairperson in particular, which I think is outrageous.”
“If anyone should resign, the Government should resign,” he said.
The Commission’s report, The Forgotten Children, called for a public inquiry into child detention after more than 30 incidents of sexual assault were revealed.
On Sunday, NSW Premier Mike Baird told Fairfax Media that releasing children from detention was something he has “supported for a long time”.
In January, Mr Baird said Australia needed to “do more” to accept refugees that had “no where to turn”.
Mr Grenier said Australia needed to “look at the humanity of what we do” and called it “awful” that Australia is the only OECD country which indefinitely detains children.
Listen to Malcolm Fraser attack Tony Abbott’s response to the report:
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