Malcolm Turnbull has flatly rejected claims the treatment of refugees on Nauru amounts to deliberate and systematic torture.
“I reject that claim totally … it is absolutely false,” the prime minister told ABC’s Radio National on Tuesday.
Amnesty International has accused Australia of running an open-air prison on the Pacific island nation.
Anna Neistat, Amnesty’s senior director for research who travelled to Nauru in July, accused the federal government of deliberate abuse.
“We have a system where people have to be subjected to extreme levels of suffering so that others who try to seek asylum in Australia are not tempted to do so,” she said.
“In our assessment that pretty much amounts to torture.”
Mr Turnbull insisted his government’s commitment to border protection was compassionate and strong.
“What we’ve been able to do is to stop the boats, no deaths at sea,” he said.
“We’ve reduced the children in detention from almost 2000 when we came into office to zero.”
Mr Turnbull said the Australian government provided significant support to Nauru for welfare, health and education services.
The prime minister revealed Immigration Minister Peter Dutton offered himself for a live interview on Four Corners – where the allegations were aired – on Monday night.
“That was rejected,” he said.
During an earlier Senate estimates hearing immigration department boss Michael Pezzullo was grilled about Amnesty’s report.
“I refute categorically … that we flout any laws international or otherwise,” he told the hearing, adding he found the torture claims personally offensive.
Mr Pezzullo said he understood the legal and philosophical definition of torture and categorically denied that was practised as part of Australia’s offshore processing regime.
Independent senator Derryn Hinch said he supported offshore processing, but argued extra measures and independent oversight were needed to protect children on Nauru.
But he criticised Amnesty’s use of the term ‘torture’, saying it was “exaggerated”.
“I took off my little barbed wire Amnesty International tag when they started defending convicted killers in the United States,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Watch Mr Turnbull’s RN interview
— ABC News (@abcnews) October 17, 2016