Former immigration minister Scott Morrison has rejected calls for him to apologise to aid group Save the Children after an official review could not substantiate claims some of their staff were encouraging asylum seekers at Nauru to self-harm.
Former integrity commissioner Philip Moss was asked by the Government to investigate claims 10 staff from the charity group had encouraged asylum seekers to self-harm or fabricate allegations of abuse.
His report released on Friday found those claims could not be substantiated and recommended the Immigration Department review its decision to remove the staff from Nauru.
When Mr Morrison announced the review in October last year, he said “the public don’t want to be played for mugs with allegations of sexual abuse being used as some kind of political tactic”.
Mr Morrison was asked on Sunday whether he conceded he had got his comments wrong.
He said the allegations had been presented to him in a formal report at the time and he referred them to the Moss review to be investigated along with other sexual assault allegations.
“It was my action, on seeing all of those allegations, not to draw any conclusions on them at all, as I said at the time, and to refer them off to an independent review,” Mr Morrison said.
“So I’m pleased the independent review has been taken that the Government has received it and the Government has responded to all of the recommendations in a positive way.”
When specifically asked if he would apologise to Save the Children, he replied: “I made no allegations, I referred allegations for a proper inquiry.”
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young is continuing to demand an apology.
“He should apologise and the Abbott government needs to explain how they will make it up to the employees who were treated so badly,” Senator Hanson-Young said.
“The Abbott government’s eagerness to shoot the messenger meant that, in this case, they shot first and asked questions later.
“Scott Morrison wants to wash his hands of this like he washed his hands of the assaults that we’re being carried out against women and children on Nauru.”
Review heard allegations of sexual abuse inside Nauru
The Moss review heard allegations made by asylum seekers of rape, sexual assault of minors, and guards trading marijuana for sexual favours.
Mr Moss detailed allegations that at least three women had been raped inside the centre and he raised concerns that assault was likely to be under-reported because detainees were worried about their refugee status.
Mr Moss detailed one allegation that a female asylum seeker was asked to expose herself in return for longer showers.
The Government is set to implement the review’s 19 recommendations, many of which call for better training for centre staff and Nauruan police and officials. Others focus on child protection.