A Coalition backbencher says his Federal Government colleagues have to act on immigration detention, amid concerns from doctors at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH).
Almost 1,000 doctors, nurses and clinical support staff from the RCH have called on the Turnbull government to end the practise of detaining children in immigration facilities, saying they cannot be effectively treated.
Staff did not deny reports over the weekend that they were refusing to discharge children back into immigration facilities, saying they were ethically obliged to have a “serious discussion” on a case-by-case basis.
Coalition backbencher Russell Broadbent described the current situation as unacceptable.
Mr Broadbent told Radio National that despite Nauru’s “open” centre policy, children effectively remained in detention.
“Women and children in detention, behind razor wire in this country or locked away on an island, is unacceptable,” he said.
“The Australian people, through the Royal Children’s Hospital, have shifted. They’ve said our detention policies are not good enough.”
Mr Broadbent said he supported the government’s turn-back policy, but said it must change in response to public opinion.
He said RCH staff were not “lefty activists” and their actions represented the Australian people.
“When the people shift, the politicians will shift,” he said.
“They will understand they need to do something … I know the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is doing his upmost to stop the people smugglers, turn the boats back, but we have to do something with the issue of people in long-term detention.
“That’s unacceptable, so they have to find a way through.”
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has previously said there would be no change in policy.
“I understand the concern of doctors, but the Defence and Border Force staff on our vessels who were pulling dead kids out of the water don’t want the boats to re-start,” he said in a statement.
“My support is with the Defence and Border Force staff and I won’t be supporting a change in the policy.”
According to the Australian Border Force’s most recent report, published on August 31, there are currently 93 children being held on Nauru and 104 children in detention in Australia.