News National Q&A: Corinne Grant praises refugee advocate for ‘risking jail’

Q&A: Corinne Grant praises refugee advocate for ‘risking jail’

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Corinne Grant said this woman risked two years jail by appearing on Q&A Photo: ABC
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A former teacher at the Nauru regional processing centre has risked “two years in jail” by detailing alleged abuse at the facility during ABC’s Q&A program.

Tracy Donohue – a teacher at the Nauru detention centre until November 2015 – told the panel of the alleged death threats, assaults, abuse and mistreatment she witnessed there.

She then asked Coalition MP Mitch Fifield what he thought the Australian government’s “responsibility” was, in relation to what she saw those kids endure.

After she revealed what she witnessed, comedian, author and soon-to-be-lawyer Corinne Grant praised Ms Donohue for her bravery.

“Tracey, what she told us about what she saw in that detention centre, exposes her to two years in jail under the [Australian Border Force] Act,” Ms Grant said.

“That legislation makes it impossible for doctors and people working in [detention] centres to report what they’ve seen and not fall foul of the Australian Border Force.”

To which Mr Fifield interjected: “That’s not true”.

That prompted this response from Ms Grant: “It is true. Mitch, read the legislation. The people who represent the peak body organisations are not covered by the Whistleblower Act.”

Watch Ms Donohue’s question:

Under that act it is a criminal offence for any person working in any of Australia’s detention centres to to reveal to the media or any other person or organisation (except police or the Commonwealth), what happens in those facilities.

That offence carries a two-year jail term.

Ms Donohue said she had given evidence which was contained in the “Nauru Files“, a dossier of accounts alleging systematic mistreatment of people in the Nauru detention centre, revealed by The Guardian.

Before his confrontation with Ms Grant, Mr Fifield drew a stunned response from the audience when he rejected there was a systematic failure on Nauru.

Watch Ms Grant challenge Mr Fifield:

He was asked if there were systematic problems on Nauru in the context of the Nauru Files’ revelations.

“Look, I don’t think there is anything systematically wrong with the system of offshore detention,” he said.

“I’m sure that’s a bipartisan view because it is the Australian Labor Party after systematically dismantling offshore detention when they were in government in 2013, and then they reintroduced offshore detention policies.”

Dutton under the spotlight

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton launched a stunning attack on the ABC, The Guardian and those revealing details of abuse at Nauru, after the files were released.

Despite that, Mr Fifield defended how Mr Dutton had handled the story.

“What Peter Dutton has made clear is that those 2000-odd incidents, which were cited [in the Nauru Files], will be investigated,” he said. “It has to be acknowledged, not all of these incidents are of equal significance.

“He has made clear they’ll be examined. No one in the Parliament, in government, has any tolerance for people being treated badly.” 

Another panel member, academic and entrepreneur Erin Watson-Lynn, shared her disgust at the Australian government’s practices on Nauru.

She also said Australia was “missing a massive opportunity” to bring migrants onto our shores.

“I think we’re missing an enormous opportunity here,” Ms Watson-Lynn said.

“Research tells us that migrants are some of the most entrepreneurial people that we have in the country. And, in fact … immigrants are the most likely to start a business.

“As we move into the ideas boom and this knowledge-based economy, don’t we need more of those people here in country?”

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